With reports of looming snow set to hit the streets as early as next week, this Christmas season not only brings about colder weather but also an increased risk of breakdowns and accidents on the road.
As Google search volume data reveals a 680% search increase for “autumn driving tips” since October, it’s important that both you and your vehicle are well-prepared to take on the upcoming freezing weather conditions.
With common risks such as ice, darkness, and cold temperatures posing additional challenges to drivers, here are six must-have items for your vehicle checklist when cold weather hits:
1. Scraper and de-icer
In autumn, especially, falling leaves can become slippery hazards for drivers, making roads unpredictable. Similarly, blustery winds can cause branches and twigs to block your view, so make sure you remain vigilant and get rid of them.
It’s even more essential when the snow hits to ensure that your vehicle is clear from debris, ice, or snow and condensation before you set off on a journey. Not only will this allow you to have a clear vision of the road ahead, but it could also save you money, as driving without clearing snow or wet leaves on the windscreen, roof, or on car lights and registration plates can incur fines of up to £4,500.
Completely avoid using hot or even warm water on your windows, as this can cause them to crack due to the difference in temperature.
To prevent condensation, ensure that your windows are clean inside and out, as moisture tends to cling to any dirt.
2. Torch and spare batteries
Having a torch and spare batteries can be invaluable if you were to need assistance in the dark. Without any light, breakdowns can be very frightening and dangerous, so have a torch handy so you’re able to see clearly and also signal for help if needed.
3. Empty fuel can
Preparation is key for any journey. Having an empty fuel can in your vehicle is essential, as you can retrieve fuel from the nearest petrol station, allowing you to get back on the move quickly and smoothly.
4. Food and drink
During the winter months, traffic delays are common because of snow, rain, or a bad-weather collision.
It’s useful to have snacks in your vehicle in case you end up waiting a long time for help. Breakdowns are sometimes unavoidable, and by having a flask with a hot drink in your vehicle, you can stay warm until help arrives.
5. Warm clothes, waterproofs and high-visibility jacket
If your vehicle breaks down on the road, staying inside your vehicle can be dangerous.
Having extra clothes, waterproofs, or a high-visibility jacket will allow you to remain warm, dry, and visible while awaiting assistance in harsher and darker winter conditions.
6. Mobile phone and power bank
I recommend that you always keep a fully charged mobile phone and power bank in your vehicle so that you can inform your friends, family, or work colleagues of any delays to your journey. This will also be essential if you need to call for help in an emergency.
Alternatively, if you do breakdown somewhere with no phone signal, then you’ll need to locate the nearest emergency phone.
When it comes to driving safely this season, it’s all about adjusting your driving habits. David explains:
Many of the items listed are for safety measures; however, as the driver of the vehicle, you are responsible for your safety where possible, which can in turn save you up to £10,000 per mistake in fines.
Driving carelessly comes at a high price, both safety-wise and financially. Not only does this increase the risk of collisions, but it can put you out of pocket and, in more serious instances, can lead to disqualification and even prosecution.
It’s important to take extra care, ensuring that you are braking in good time to prevent the vehicle from sliding further than you anticipate, as braking distances can double in these harsher road conditions.
Prevention is always better than cure, so where possible, it’s important that you plan your journey ahead of time and preempt any possible risks to your route.
Although we recommend these items, this checklist is far from limited, and other useful items that can be added to your list include a first aid kit, a shovel, and an emergency tyre sealant.
To avoid breakdowns this season, we recommend that your vehicle be regularly serviced to ensure that it remains in good working condition to work to its best ability through the freezing temperatures that are on the forecast.
David James is a sales director at leading fuel card provider Right Fuel Card.