Working through the winter? Visibility, temperature and weather can really make it harder to take your business on the road. Because safety is always the priority, here are some simple tips to adjust your driving to winter conditions.
The first step should be to prepare yourself and your vehicle or vehicles. Check out our guide to what tyres you need for difficult weather and our tips for staying safe when driving your van on snowy and mountainous roads. Once your van’s ready, now comes the time to adopt some new driving habits to deal with the conditions that winter brings.
#1 When driving in winter, slow down
This one cannot be emphasized enough. The best advice for driving in difficult conditions is to simply slow down, giving you and your van more time to react to unexpected road events. Prepare to decrease your speed by up to 20 mph when driving on difficult terrain, snow, or in limited visibility.
#2 Accelerate and decelerate slowly
In snowy or slushy conditions, your tyres will take more time to find traction. The worst thing you can do is slam on the brakes or accelerator, which will cause your tyres to slide. Instead, take your time, pushing gradually on the pedals to pick up speed or stop. When your tyres find their traction, you’ll feel it. On loose surfaces like shallow mud, driving assistance systems can be a big help. Grip Xtend, for instance, is a standard feature on all Renault van models that, when activated, lets the front wheels spin in order to clear loose surface material and find traction underneath.
#3 Handle the van smoothly and deliberately
When driving in winter conditions, everything takes more time, including turning. In snow and slush, changing directions quickly may result in skidding, or even losing control of the vehicle. The key here is to avoid over-steering: turn the wheel slowly, making smooth, deliberate movements. The Electronic Stability Control (ESC) on Renault vans will also help you there to rein in any over-steering.
#4 Driving in winter affects everyone equally
Remember that everyone else on the road is dealing with these adverse conditions. Give your fellow drivers more space to manoeuvre than you usually would. It’s always a good idea to check the Highway Code Rule 126 on stopping distances: remember that stop times increase significantly in snow, sleet, and slush, so allow for a larger gap between your van and the car in front you, especially when you’re operating a fully loaded van. You’ll also maintain visibility of the road by keeping your windshield free of dirty grey snow sprayed from the wheel of the car in front of you.
#5 Check weather and road conditions before heading out
The best way to manoeuvre difficult winter conditions is to avoid them completely. Keep yourself updated on local road conditions and, whenever possible, avoid obstructed, heavily snowed or flooded routes.
#6 Turn on your van lights in snow or fog
Make sure other drivers are aware of your presence. In snowy weather or winter fog, always remember to turn on your lights.
#7 Look out for black ice on the roads
Watch out for those dark, shiny patches. That’s ice. Again, the worst thing that can happen in difficult winter conditions is that your wheels can slide. If you can’t avoid the black ice, don’t attempt to manoeuvre until you’ve cleared the patch.
#8 Turn the music down
If you’re driving over a mixture of various unsavoury wintry materials, pay attention to the sound and feeling your tyres give. You can usually hear the difference between the grip of tyres on snow and the silent smoothness of dangerous ice. Over snow, you’ll want to hear your tires gripping (or not).
#9 Bring a shovel, and maybe pack a snack and water
Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst! Even the most capable drivers can get stuck in snow. Try digging yourself out. If that doesn’t work, enjoy the snack you packed for yourself while you wait for help to arrive.
#10 Don’t get overconfident
Accidents in winter conditions often occur on the streets or road segments we know best. It’s because we think we know the stretch of road like the back of our hands and our concentration might slip. Remember, a snowy or icy road is not the same as the one you know in summer.
Follow these tips to drive safely – accident and work-stoppage free – all winter long.