SAFETY TIPS FOR WINTER DRIVING
SAFETY TIPS FOR WINTER DRIVING
Whilst South Africa’s winters are generally mild, it’s still advisable to enhance your driving skills in order to manage any adverse weather conditions. This is especially important in the rainy Western Cape, KZN regions, and the misty lowveld. It’s also recommended to prepare your vehicle for the cold months ahead and take necessary safety precautions before embarking on long journeys, as per the advice of Ary Coetzee, Technical & Product Specialist at Bridgestone SA.
Before setting off on a winter drive, ensure that your brakes have warmed up sufficiently. Driving with cold brakes could lead to brake failure and accidents.
When driving in wet, snowy, or icy conditions, apply gentle pressure to the brake pedal using the ball of your foot to avoid locking your brakes.
If your car has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), do not pump the brakes; instead, maintain steady pressure. You may feel a pulsating sensation in the brakes, but this is normal. Consider ABS when purchasing a new vehicle for additional safety.
Regularly check your brakes during winter to ensure that they are functioning effectively in cold, wet, or icy conditions. While it’s important to exercise caution when driving in winter, if you notice any unusual noises or smells from your brakes, get them checked immediately to avoid any potential issues.
When driving in treacherous winter conditions, it’s important to exercise additional caution. Wind can affect your steering control, and rain can infiltrate your brakes, making them less effective. Using brakes in these conditions may cause your vehicle to skid or hydroplane, leading to collisions with other cars, while towing vehicles may jack-knife.
You can reduce the risk of accidents during poor driving conditions by maintaining a safe following distance between yourself and the vehicle in front. Although the standard recommended distance is at least two seconds, it’s advisable to increase this to five or six seconds during harsh winter weather. Doing so will allow you to brake or slow down without causing rear-end crashes, which could result in injury, vehicle damage, and consequently higher motor vehicle insurance premiums for many South Africans.
To ensure your vehicle is in top driving condition during winter, inspect your brakes, windscreen wipers, defrosters, and radiators. Check your tyres for damage and make sure the tread is above the minimum of 1.6mm indicated by the tread wear indicator. Regularly checking your tyres can help you prevent most tyre-related accidents.
In the past, drivers had to be hands-on when preparing their cars for winter. Nowadays, you can take your vehicle for servicing at a service station, where they will check your car for winter readiness, including anti-freeze and windscreen wiper fluid levels. While it’s good practice to double-check oil and water levels, many motorists only do so when issues arise.
When embarking on a long journey during winter, take extra precautions to ensure your safety in case of a breakdown. Keep a bundle of cold-weather gear in your car, including extra food, water, warm clothes, blankets, and medication. Make sure your tyres are properly inflated and avoid using cruise control when driving on slippery surfaces like ice. Never warm up your car in an enclosed area like a garage, as this can result in carbon monoxide poisoning.
Careful drivers who give themselves sufficient time for their journeys, service their cars regularly, and prepare for long trips should be able to drive safely during the cold season. Before embarking on a winter journey, check the weather forecast. If the weather conditions are poor with heavy mist or rain, consider postponing your trip if possible.
Supa Quick, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bridgestone South Africa PTY LTD, is committed to keeping South Africans safe on the road. Visit one of our fitment centres nationwide for a free vehicle safety check.