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Winter driving tips as Storm Debi blows in


Winter driving tips as Storm Debi blows in

Multiple danger-to-life weather warnings have been issued by the Met Office, as Storm Debi is set to hit the UK within hours, bringing heavy rain and strong winds. 

And with damp, cold conditions comes the need to change your driving habits, according to Graham Conway, Managing Direct at Select Car Leasing. Graham outlines some useful wet-weather driving tips…

1. Demist windows

Wet weather causes windows to mist-up, and clearing them can be a hassle, particularly if you’re running late. Make sure the heater settings are blasting air at the windscreen, not just into the cabin, and activate the demist button for the back windscreen. And remember that using the air conditioning will clear mist from windows much quicker than when it’s not on. That’s because the air con actually takes moisture out of the air before it’s expelled into the interior.

2. Don’t turn off THIS button

You might have seen a button in your vehicle that shows a car with a couple of wavy lines underneath it, as well as the word ‘OFF’. This refers to your car’s traction control. In some cars the button is labelled ‘DSC’ – for Dynamic Stability Control – or ‘ESP’ and ‘ESC’ for the Electronic Stability Control system

These systems are automatically set to ‘on’. But some motorists won’t have a clue what it means, and they might turn it off without thinking, or perhaps even accidentally deactivate it. Long story short, NEVER turn off traction control when it’s wet. Traction control and stability control will automatically detect when a tyre is losing grip, and will either apply braking force to individual wheels to correct a skid, or can dial-down engine power to keep you safe.

In wet weather, when the risk of skidding is high, ensuring that traction control is enabled is a must. Why would you ever choose to turn it off? That course of action is often reserved for when you get stuck in snow or ice, and you actually want plenty of wheel spin to try and gain some traction.

3. Go easy at junctions

Wet weather equals more skids. And with this in mind, go easy on the accelerator when you’re pulling away from junctions and roundabouts. Laying down the power can mean more wheel spin than forward momentum, and you could actually end up getting yourself in trouble if you’re giving it the beans but not actually getting very far. Find that balance between enough power, but not too much, so you can move away sharply.

4. Ditch the big coat

The wet weather has also coincided with a drop in temperatures. But however cold you might be, you need to resist the urge to get behind the wheel while wearing any big, bulky jackets that might restrict your movements. The Highway Code states that, before setting off, a driver must ensure ‘clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner’.

5. Avoid THIS lane on a wet motorway

When roads are constructed, they’re not typically flat. They have a slight high spot in the middle, and then taper down to the left and right so that any water can run off into drains. So what you might see on motorways in particular is slightly more water pooling on the extreme right and left sides of the highway. The outside lane of the motorway can be treacherous when it comes to ‘aquaplaning’ – ie, hitting standing water and losing all traction. If you do have to overtake in the outermost lane, tuck back to the left as quickly as you can to mitigate the risk.

6. Turn the cruise control OFF

If you feel yourself aquaplaning, instinct will tell you to slam on the brakes – but you need to resist that temptation. Instead, ease off the accelerator slowly, keep the steering wheel straight, and when you feel traction once more, you can brake and slow down. Once in control, turn cruise control mode off, if it’s on, as having full, manual control of the accelerator is crucial.

7. Drive defensively

If it’s tipping down outside and rain is bouncing off the road, slow down and keep a safe gap to the car in front. You’ll see some appalling driving in wet weather, as some drivers take absolutely no notice of conditions and continue to tailgate. It’s an absolute recipe for disaster and extremely dangerous when visibility is reduced because of road spray.

8. Turn your lights on

Again, it never fails to amaze how often you see people driving in terrible conditions, with reduced visibility because of the rain, without their lights on. Under rule 113 of the Highway Code, a driver ‘must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced’. If you don’t, you could end up with a fine running to £1,000.

9. Fog lights

Fog lights are designed to increase your visibility in thick fog. But you might also need to turn them on if heavy rain if visibility is ‘seriously reduced’ to 100m or less. BUT remember that fog lights can dazzle other road users and you should only use them in extreme weather – not just in drizzle or light rain. You could face a £50-on-the-spot fine for using fog lights incorrectly.

10. Tread carefully

It goes without saying that your tyres should be in good condition and have a depth of tread that falls within legal guidelines – which is above 1.6mm across the middle three-quarters of the tyre. Having bald tyres will greatly increase skid risk.

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