Top 3 mistakes winter drivers make

Winter isn’t coming, it’s here!

With cold weather approaching that might even put a chill up Jon Snow, RACV is warning motorists to be prepared and take extra care when driving in winter conditions.

Driving in severe weather can be challenging and dangerous, so motorists should try to avoid the three big mistakes of winter driving.

Poorly prepared vehicles, speeding and a failure to treat the icy conditions with respect are a disastrous cocktail that can lead to accidents and damage to vehicles.

1. Poor preparation

Amazingly RACV research has found that tyres were often neglected with one in five cars on Victoria’s roads had at least one un-roadworthy tyre. Many car owners also forget to look at other critical items too.

Check your tyres, windscreen wipers, the battery, lights, brakes, heater and cooling system before heading off. Slush and mud were particularly hard on vehicles so drivers should get their cars serviced regularly.

We can’t stress enough how important tyres are to a car’s safety. In slippery conditions like you’d find in the snow fields tyres need to be in tip-top condition. Tyres must have plenty of tread depth and no damage. They should also be inflated to the correct pressure. But be aware this can vary from car to car. The recommended minimum tyre pressures are usually listed on a sticker inside the driver’s door jamb or glove box.

And don’t forget you have five tyres, not four so give the spare some love too. If your spare is a space-saver, be aware of its speed and distance restrictions.

2. Driving too fast for winter conditions

Remember it takes much longer to stop in the wet, so don’t follow other cars too closely when it is raining or if the roads are wet. Increase the gap between you and the car in front to allow for this.

If you’re driving in the high country and encounter snow, drive to the conditions and take it easy. Even if the snow has been cleared, the road is still likely to be slippery and black ice is always a danger. Use the brake, accelerator and steering smoothly.Always remember that the speed limit is just that; a limit. It is not telling you the speed you must drive at. Drive at a speed that you are comfortable and don’t be pressured to speed up by other motorists.

3. Not reacting to the worsening winter weather

If it is foggy don’t put your lights on high beam as this makes the road harder to see. Instead use low beam, as this keeps the light on the road. Use front and rear fog lamps if the conditions are bad enough, but remember the rules about when they can be used.

In wet weather use your air conditioner to prevent your windscreen from fogging up. However if visibility is so limited that you can’t see the edges of the road or other vehicles at a safe distance, it’s time to pull over and wait for the conditions to ease.

At some alpine locations, snow chains are compulsory. VicRoads have an information page on the rules regarding their use.

Written by Nicholas Platt, Senior Vehicle Engineer
June 23, 2016

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