25 October 2016

Top tips to prepare for winter driving

Winter-related car insurance incidents typically increase from late October, but there are plenty of simple steps that you can take to prepare for safe winter driving.

Before you venture out in the car as the chill sets in, ask yourself the following three questions:

1. Is your car ready for winter?

Darker nights and adverse weather conditions can make driving particularly hazardous in winter months, but making sure that your car maintenance is up-to-date could help you to avoid an accident.

  • Check your windscreen, door locks, lights, brakes and mirrors are all clean and in good working order
  • Inspect the walls, pressure, treads and look for any splits on all of your tyres, including the spare one
  • Make sure that your insurance covers you, your passengers and the contents of your car. Breakdown cover is an additional option on car insurance policies through Nationwide, provided by Liverpool Victoria Insurance Company Limited (LV=).

2. Do you really need to travel?

Nobody wants to have their plans disrupted by the weather, but venturing out in the snow and ice can be both risky and expensive.

The most common claims over the winter period relate to cars skidding on ice or leaves, usually damaging the suspension as they hit the kerb.

If you do think that you need to travel, the Highway Code states that before you set off you must:

  • Be able to see. Clear all snow and ice from all your windows
  • Make sure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible
  • Make sure the mirrors are clear and the windows are demisted thoroughly
  • Remove all snow that might fall off into the path of other road users
  • Check your planned route is clear of delays and that no further snowfalls or severe weather are predicted.

3. Are you prepared for an emergency?

It’s great to have comprehensive car insurance, including breakdown cover, but make sure that you keep your policy number and rescue details in the car. 

No matter what time of the year it is, it’s also a good idea to leave a high-vis jacket, warning triangle, first aid kit and torch in your car.

During winter months, you’ll need to add de-icer and screen wash. Just in case you do have to wait in your car in the cold, it’s wise to keep blankets, food and water in your vehicle too.

Top tips for safe winter driving

If your journey is essential, try to allow yourself extra time. Keep a careful look-out for pedestrians who may be walking on the road instead of treacherous pavements and remember that it takes 10 times longer than usual to stop in the ice and snow.

Gentle, steady manoeuvres are essential for safe driving. In wintry conditions your vehicle may not behave as it usually does, so avoid harsh braking and acceleration, or sharp steering.

If conditions worsen while you’re out, try winding down your windows to look and listen for approaching traffic. If you cannot see, pull over until it’s safe to continue.

Don’t forget: Thieves love the opportunity to steal a car left trustingly unlocked outside as it warms up. If you don’t have time to wait in the car as your windscreen thaws, try placing an old bed sheet or cover under your windscreen wipers overnight to prevent frost forming.

There’s no substitute for driving safely and checking that your car is well-maintained. Comprehensive 5 Star Defaqto rated car insurance through Nationwide, includes a courtesy car and up to 180 days European cover when travelling in EU countries as standard, which could help you to get back on the road as quickly as possible.

Other information you may find useful:

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