The best thing to do in extremely bad weather is to stay off the road.
However, motorists often find themselves driving in poor weather, and this week will have to deal with icy and snowy conditions.
The Road Safety Authority advises motorists to be winter ready, to remove all snow from their vehicle before starting a journey and to slow down.
Motorists should use all controls delicately and leave extra distance between them and the vehicle in front. Avoid over steering and harsh braking and harsh acceleration.
Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin. Select a low gear when travelling downhill, especially if through bends.
The RSA has these ten tips for driving in snowy and icy conditions.
Get a grip
Remember your only contact with the road surface is your tyres so it is vital that they are up to the task in icy and snowy conditions.
Check tyres, including spare wheel, and replace them if the tread depth falls below 3mm.
Check that tyres are inflated to the correct tyre pressure.
Lack of grip can occur even on treated roads so drive slowly in the highest gear possible, manoeuvre gently and avoid harsh braking. Replace tyres if necessary.
Make sure you can see
Clear your windows and mirrors before you set out, carry a screen scraper and de-icer.
Do not use hot water on the windscreen as it can crack the glass.
Replace windshield wiper blades if necessary.
De-mist the inside of your windows thoroughly.
Make sure your windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing fluid.
Remember too that heavy snowfall will reduce visibility.
Watch out for grit/salt spreaders and snow ploughs.
The glare from the sun can be dazzling in the winter when the sun is low in the sky, so wear sunglasses in these conditions.
Check and use your lights
Use your dipped headlights so that others will see you. Make sure your headlights and tail lights are all in working order, replace broken bulbs. Make sure lights are clear of snow.
In blizzard conditions, visibility will be reduced greatly.
Do not drive on the tail-lights of the vehicle in front. This can give a false sense of security and you will be too close to be able to brake safely.
In heavy snow, use your fog lights, turn off your radio and open your window a fraction, so you can hear other traffic, especially at junctions.
Use dipped headlights at all times, and fog lights in heavy snow to ensure you are seen by other motorists but don't forget to turn them off afterwards.
Gently does it
Manoeuvre gently, slow down and leave extra distance between you and the vehicle in front.
Too much steering is bad and avoid harsh braking and acceleration.
Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin.
Select a low gear when travelling downhill especially if through bends.
Falling snow, fog, rain, or hail will reduce visibility.
Do not hang on to the tail lights of the vehicle in front of you as it can give a false sense of security. When you slow down, use your brakes so that the brake lights warn drivers behind you.
Watch out for 'black ice'
If the road looks polished or glossy it could be "black ice" - one of winter's worst hazards.
Black ice is difficult to see. It is nearly transparent ice that often looks like a harmless puddle or is overlooked entirely.
Watch out for black ice, especially in sheltered and shaded areas on roads, under trees and adjacent to high walls.
Give yourself a 'brake'
If you get into a skid, you need to know if your vehicle has ABS (Anti-Lock Braking Systems). After you "step" on the brake the ABS begins cycling - you will feel pulses in the pedal or hear the system working. It is easy to properly use anti-lock brakes:
Remember - Step, Stay and Steer. Step on the pedal. Stay on the pedal. Steer around the obstacle. (A warning: A little bit of steering goes a very long way in an emergency).
For vehicles without ABS, you will have to rely on the old-fashioned 'cadence braking' system: Push the brake pedal until the wheels stop rolling, then immediately release the brake enough to allow the wheels to begin turning again. Repeat this sequence rapidly. Your goal is to have the tyres producing maximum grip regardless of whether the surface is snow or ice.
How does your vehicle help?
Check in your owner's manual and find out if your vehicle has any safety assist technology such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC) or Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) and know how they assist your driving in severe weather conditions. But remember technology offers no miracles.
Don't let these lull you into overestimating the available traction.
In prolonged icy or snowy driving conditions, it is advisable to carry the following in the boot of the car:
- High visibility vest
- Tow rope
- Spare bulbs
- Spare fuel
- Appropriate footwear in case you have to leave your vehicle ie boots
- Hazard warning triangle
- Spare wheel, with tyre at correct pressure and tread
- Check that your spare wheel is in good condition and is fully inflated. Some cars may have an inflation repair kit instead of a spare wheel. Make sure that you know how to use it.
- De-icing equipment (both for glass and door locks)
- First aid kit (in good order)
- Fire extinguisher (fully operative)
- Working torch
- Car blanket, additional clothing, some food and water
In preparation for driving you should also ensure:
- The vehicle is properly maintained, serviced and engine oil viscosity is suitable for cold conditions
- Have the strength of coolant/antifreeze measured
- Ensure the vehicle has adequate supply of fuel for the journey
- Consider carrying some salt or sand
- Give someone an estimated time of arrival at your proposed destination
- Carry a mobile phone and spare, fully charged, battery (if you don't have a car charger)
Listen to local weather and traffic reports.
Stay at home
The best thing to do in extremely bad weather is to stay off the road. Take heed of warnings not to go out. This leaves the emergency services free to deal with real emergencies instead of rounding up stranded motorists.
Motorists should also ensure that their vehicle is roadworthy and ready for poor weather conditions.
See more information on the Road Safety Authority's website or winterready.ie.