Even a light dusting of snow on top of ice can hide the danger.
THE Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) is warning of potential chaos on the nation’s roads this winter.
It has warned of increasing dangers facing road users as frosts and local authority cuts bite.
The leading road safety charity says that in spite of two consecutive bad winters, many councils around the country are planning to cut back on winter services such as road salting. This potentially could mean more danger to drivers. Last year, according to the Department for Transport, there was a rise of 37 per cent in the number of vehicles overturning in snow and ice.
The Department for Communities and Local Government estimates that there will be a 3.6 per cent reduction in budgets for salting roads, ploughing snow and severe weather arrangements across England. When inflation is taken into account, spending is cut further in real terms.
Sixty-seven councils are reducing winter road services cash, with 33 of them cutting more than 10 per cent from last year’s budgets. In the worse cases, cuts of over 30 per cent have been targeted.
IAM chief executive Simon Best said: “Roads are essential for the economy — not only in rural areas where cars are the only way to get around but also on the main routes that keep our economy moving. Ambulances, supermarket food deliveries, meals on wheels, utilities, even the armed forces, all rely on having a usable road network. Last year, parts of Scotland nearly ran out of food and fuel. The 24-hour, just-in-time logistics system simply wasn’t able to cope with the weather.
“Councils must make contingency plans to ensure that essential supplies can always get through, no matter what the weather. This has to include dealing with large numbers of drivers stranded for hours with no access to heat or food.”
It is even more important that drivers and riders take care in severe weather conditions, given reduced winter road services.
Driving in snow — the method
• Is your journey essential? If at all possible postpone or reschedule your trip and don’t ignore police warnings about closed roads.
• Double or even triple your normal stopping distance from the vehicle in front. Drive so that you don’t rely on your brakes to be able to stop — on an icy surface they simply may not do that for you, but keep moving as much as possible, even if it is only at walking pace.
• On a downhill slope get your speed low before you start the descent, and do not let it build up — it is much easier to keep it low than to try and slow down once things get slippery.
• Start gently, avoiding high revs, and use second gear to avoid wheelspin. If you get yourself into a skid the main thing to remember is to take your foot off the pedals and steer. Only use the brake if you cannot steer out of trouble.
• Plan your journey around busier roads as they are more likely to have been gritted. Avoid using short cuts on minor roads – they are less likely to be cleared or treated with salt, especially country lanes.
• Always clear your windows, lights and mirrors. Don’t forget that snow on the bonnet can blow back onto your windscreen, so clear that off, and clear the roof to avoid snow being blown onto traffic following you before moving off.
• This should include a charged up mobile phone, torch, food for energy, water and a blanket. For snow you also need a shovel with you. On longer journeys always let someone know you have set off and tell them your planned route.
• You can also improve car performance in snow by fitting winter tyres. Winter tyres have a different tread pattern to give better grip on snow and ice and have a snowflake on a mountain as a symbol on the sidewall. The symbol indicates that they use winter grade rubber which stays flexible and maintains grip to well below freezing. The rubber used on standard tyres hardens as the temperature drops.
A new website is available, drivingadvice.org.uk, for advice on dealing with all winter weather conditions.