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Page last updated at 09:26 GMT, Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Guide to driving safely in winter weather conditions

Once the snow starts to fall or the gales being to howl, our driving skills are pushed to the limit - so do you know how to drive properly in bad conditions?

BBC Look East's latest weather forecast including a five-day outlook

A few moments thinking about it now could save you from problems out on the road.

We often know when bad weather is coming, but even when severe winter weather is expected, almost half of road users are not taking proper precautions, according to the Highways Agency.

Research has revealed that almost half of road users continue to make their journey, despite the forecast.

Driving in snow

Ice and snow drastically reduce the ability of your tyres to grip the road, which means that slowing down, speeding up and changing direction all become hazardous. The trick to driving in these conditions is to be a smooth as possible.

BEFORE SETTING OUT:
Clear all snow from the car, including the lights
De-mist and de-ice your car fully before starting your journey
Take a blanket, Wellington boots, a spade and warm clothing
On longer journeys take some food and a flask with a hot drink
Tell someone at your destination that you're coming and which route you will be taking so they can alert the emergency services if you don't turn up
Be prepared to take more time over your journey

Pc James Waller, from Norfolk Constabulary's driver training team, said: "The best advice is to drive at a slow speed in as high a gear as possible.

"If you have to accelerate or brake make sure you do both of those very gently.

"The main thing is to try to keep your vehicle moving.

"It's when you've stopped and have to try to move away from having stopped that vehicles often have difficulty with getting their traction."

Weather kits

As few as a third would carry a 'winter weather kit' to see them through a journey and more than a fifth of those questioned said they would not check for weather warnings before setting out.

"We have built up a new relationship with the Met Office... to ensure we can give road users the best possible warnings and information when they have to travel in poor conditions," said Ginny Clarke, chief highways engineer.

"We also want road users to be better prepared, to carry the right equipment and to take note of the information we and the Met Office are providing - so that they can make better decisions on whether they need to travel when the weather is bad," she added.

Treacherous conditions

Mike Rees says drivers shouldn't rely on roads being gritted

Delaying a journey for a couple of hours can make the difference between a completed trip and a difficult drive in poor conditions.

"People go into panic mode, despite the fact we have warnings," said Mike Rees of the Drive Alive motoring school in Diss, Norfolk.

"We must realise that we have to adapt our driving style to suit the conditions and be prepared," he added.

When driving in heavy rain and strong winds, drivers should always slow down and keep their distance from the vehicle in front.

Is your car ready for the winter?

After driving through flood water, test your brakes before you start increasing your speed again.

Drivers should remember that other vehicles on the road may also be affected by strong winds, especially when overtaking, so check your mirrors for other vehicles.

Thinking ahead

DRIVING TIPS:
Check local and national weather forecasts. Listen to travel information on the radio
Keep your space and look a long way ahead
Slow down by decelerating rather than braking
Apply brakes gently, apply accelerator gently, turn the steering wheel gently
If you skid, ease off the accelerator, but do not brake suddenly
If you're going up a slippery hill, use as high a gear as possible. Don't start off in first, try second or third
Dazzle from the low winter sun can also be dangerous. Carry a pair of sunglasses in the car

Driving experts say you should prepare yourself and your car for winter driving.

"You need to think about when you last had your car serviced. Think about sorting your battery out, to make sure you've got anti-freeze in your engine and lots of screen wash in your water bottle," said Norfolk's casualty reduction officer Michael Edney.

"It's also worth thinking about having some warm clothing in the car in case you get stuck in snow.

"If you are stuck for hours and hours in traffic, don't run your engine all the time. Just run it long enough to warm the car right through - leaving the window open a little bit for ventilation - and then you won't go through your petrol as quickly and you'll keep yourself warm.

"Try to raise your feet off the floor as that's where it gets cold and that will work its way through your body, so insulate yourself from the ground up," he added.

The British weather is unpredictable. If you must drive during severe weather, make sure you are prepared for bad weather conditions - in particular make sure your fuel tank and washer fluid are topped up.

The Highways Agency information line is 0845 750 4030





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