Stay safe on Suffolk’s roads this winter - 10 tips for safer driving
20:16 14 February 2016
Temperatures have again dropped and there is a risk of snow - bringing fresh dangers to our roads.
But following these simple tips, from Inspector Julian Ditcham, of the Norfolk and Suffolk Roads Policing and Firearms Operations unit, could keep you, your passengers and other road users safe.
Check fluid levels Check fluid levels routinely throughout the winter, running out of anti-freeze, coolant or oil could be the cause of a breakdown and in wintery weather you want to avoid long waits at the roadside.
Check tyres Ensure your tyres are in good condition and fully inflated. This will help you grip the road in precarious conditions as well as saving on fuel.
Don’t run out of fuel It sounds daft, admits Insp Ditcham, but drivers frequently fail to top up, and running out of fuel on a main highway could result in a hefty fine for obstructing the road as well as a long walk to the fuel station. Insp Ditcham also warns that if you do breakdown in winter, you need to ensure you have enough fuel to be able to run the heaters. “You don’t need a full tank, but if it drops to a quarter, top it up to half,” he says.
Allow enough time “Don’t put yourself under extra pressure to get somewhere,” warns the inspector. He says that rushing will affect your driving behaviour and could be dangerous in bad weather.
Avoid unnecessary journeys If the weather really does start to close in, think about whether you really need to go out. “When we had the snow in 2009 we had drivers stuck on the A14 and when we asked them what the purpose of their journey was some told us they were going shopping. “You need to think whether it is really needed, or if you can survive with what you have indoors. That night we couldn’t get people off and they had to sleep in their cars, all for a bit of shopping.”
Carry the right kit Keeping emergency supplies in the car can help keep you safe and warm in an emergency, and could even help avert a disaster. “If you have some form of spade or shovel you can dig yourself out if needed,” said Insp Ditcham. Drivers, particularly those who are travelling longer distances, should also carry warm clothes or a blanket, a flask or a bottle of water and some emergency snacks. “You should also have your phone with you, and make sure it is fully charged or that you have a car charger for it.”
]Tell someone where you are going Let relatives or friends know when you are travelling and where, so they know to raise the alarm if you do not arrive on time.
Light up Use the appropriate lights for the weather, warns Insp Ditcham. He advises using main beams on bleak or wet days, instead of relying on side lights. Pointing to a dark car he says: “Vehicles like that tend to blend into the background as the distance increases, putting your lights on just gives others a better chance of seeing you.” Use fog lights when visibility is particularly bad - but switch them off if they are not needed.
Check your driving Are you driving too close to the driver in front? When visibility is reduced it is more important than ever to leave space between cars. Insp Ditcham said: “A high degree of collisions on the A14 happen in rush hour as traffic is bumper to bumper and people are not leaving enough space between cars.”
Put your mobile phone away It may be illegal but drivers are routinely spotted using their phones at the wheel. And increasingly they are texting, emailing, checking Facebook or using their phones for navigation, rather than taking calls. Using your phone distracts you from driving, and when the weather is bad you need to pay complete attention to the road ahead of you.