Maintaining an appropriate situational speed and a sufficient safe distance to other road users is key to safe driving in difficult and slippery conditions.
Situational speed and safe distances leave room to react
When driving in poor conditions, leave yourself room to react by maintaining a safe distance to the vehicle ahead and a sensible speed. Driving too close to the vehicle ahead often leads to rear-end collisions. Braking distances are much longer on slippery roads, and even a good set of winter tyres will not provide equal traction to summer conditions. The importance of maintaining a safe distance to the vehicle ahead is highlighted in the winter and on slippery roads.
How to maximise traction on slippery roads
Even under slippery conditions, the traction of the tyres does not disappear by itself. The loss of traction is the result of the driver’s actions. Follow these guidelines to prevent the loss of traction:
- Accelerate in such a manner that the tyres do not spin.
- Negotiate curves at a moderate speed to avoid the car from sliding sideways.
- Avoid driving into snow banks, water-filled road grooves or puddles of water at a high speed.
- If you drive an older car without an anti-lock braking system (ABS), avoid locking up your brakes.
- Avoid sudden and jerky movements of the steering wheel.
- Overtaking cars is not recommended under poor road conditions.
Roads are at their most slippery when the temperature is close to freezing point.
When humid air cools down rapidly, a thin and transparent membrane of ice, known as black ice, can quickly form on the surface of a road. Compared to other types of ice, black ice is exceptionally slippery and difficult to see.
During heavy rain, drivers are at risk of the car hydroplaning. With enough standing water on the road surface, the tyre may end up riding on a layer of water. Without contact between the tyres and the road, control of the vehicle is lost. In colder weather, slushplaning and snowplaning pose similar dangers.
See and be seen
Long-range headlights must be used in dark conditions whenever possible without dazzling the drivers of oncoming vehicles. Keep your eyes on the outer edges of the area illuminated by the headlights. Clean the front and rear lights of your vehicle regularly, especially in muddy and snowy conditions. Also keep the windshield clean, both inside and out.
Keep a reflector tag in your car and wear appropriate clothing
Drivers know how difficult it is to see pedestrians without reflector tags, even if the road is lit. While drivers may not think they will need a reflector tag themselves, they become pedestrians when they get out of the vehicle. Reflector tags are particularly important if the car breaks down or the driver otherwise needs assistance in the dark.
For the safety of the passengers, it is recommended that the following items are kept inside the car or its boot:
- warm clothing,
- a reflector vest or reflector tags, and
- a torch.