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Drivers now need grit - not just salt - for bad weather

Thursday, 12 February 2009

The IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) has put together an at-a-glance guide to driving and riding in adverse weather, to help the estimated six million drivers who are now facing the worst driving conditions in a generation.

IAM Chief Examiner Peter Rodger, one of the UK’s most qualified drivers, said: "Blame for some of the problems may focus on the lack of salt - but a lack of grit on the part of many drivers also led to difficulties, especially on side roads up and down the UK."

"In the last week, poorly prepared drivers and vehicles have ended up stranded by driving conditions that for which they had little or no experience."

“Blizzards and strong side winds are predicted, with more snow and ice, plus the inevitable local flooding that follows. These would challenge even experienced drivers," said Mr Rodger. Drivers in different parts of the UK will be combating a range of treacherous driving conditions for days to come.

Mr Rodger echoed police warnings that even though the first snow has gone, it doesn't mean that the roads are safe again.

The IAM said that five main things drivers should be aware of are when facing the full range of the British winter are:

FRESH SNOW – get your speed right (not too fast to lose control, and not too slow to risk losing momentum); create lots of room around you and do everything smoothly – braking, steering, accelerating. Start gently from stationary, avoiding high revs.

HEAVY RAIN – watch for the shiny patches that are lying water; give yourself a longer gap to other traffic, and be ready to slow down when you need to; keep the demister working; don’t soak pedestrians by running through puddles.

FLOODING – lower your speed right down and choose the most shallow route available, using the middle of the road if that's where it is and you can do so. Use a low gear to keep revs high but control speed by slipping the clutch (and beware that water could enter the exhaust, so keep the revs up).

FOG - the lead vehicle in a queue will clear pockets of fog, potentially deceiving vehicles following that the conditions are clearer than they are. Don’t use full beam. Use wipers on the outside and the demister inside to keep your visibility as clear as possible.

HIGH WINDS – give yourself more space, with plenty of distance between you and the vehicle in front; take particular care when passing large vehicles and motorcycles, and be ready for side winds at gaps in buildings or as you come out of a cutting. Cyclists are particularly vulnerable to side winds.