#NWPChristmas: Be safe on the road

Be safe on the road

Here are some top tips for road safety: 

Pedestrians

  • Make sure you can be easily seen at all times, but especially at night, on dark days and in bad weather
  • Bright or fluorescent clothes show up best by day, especially in dull or misty weather
  • By night, reflective material is best and shows up in car headlights – fluorescent clothing doesn't work after dark
  • Reflective tape can be put on clothing, school bags and equipment
  • Cross the road at the safest place possible for example, zebra, pelican, puffin and patrolled crossings
  • Use the Green Cross Code: Stop, Look, Listen, Live
  • If you are out at night, choose routes that are well-lit by streetlights and cross at well-lit places

Cyclists

  • Bicycles should be equipped with good lights. It is an offence to cycle at night without a white front light, a red back light and a red reflector at the back
  • You should put the lights where they can be easily seen, not hidden behind saddles or framework
  • It is a good idea to carry spare batteries and bulbs with you in case they run out when cycling along
  • If you see other vehicles using their lights, use yours
  • Take extra care to be seen – bright or fluorescent clothing shows up best in the daytime and reflective clothing is best at night
  • Watch out for car drivers. Remember, there are fewer cyclists on the roads in winter, so drivers may be less aware.
  • Traffic isn't the only hazard at night. Watch out for uneven surfaces and potholes, animals, pedestrians in dark clothing and other cyclists without lights. Look for them carefully and give them a wide berth when you see them.
  • Make sure your reflectors are clean at all times
  • You can also make your bike more visible by adding spoke reflectors

Drivers

Even the most experienced drivers can find themselves getting into difficulties when the roads are icy. Ask yourself whether your journey is really necessary.

Make sure your vehicle is in winter roadworthy condition:
  • Check that your tyres meet the legal requirements. The legal limit is 1.6mm but in winter at least 3mm is recommended. Tyres that do not have the legal tread will seriously affect your car’s traction and steering.
  • Tyre pressures are equally as important as tread depths. Make sure you know what they should be and check regularly to ensure maximum grip.
  • Consider fitting winter tyres during cold weather
  • Have your brakes looked at – on wet roads it’s even more vital that brakes are working efficiently
  • Make sure all lights are clean, working and adjusted properly
  • Check the condition of wipers
  • Check oil and washer fluid levels
  • Ensure the windscreen is clean inside and out. Winter driving is not only about poor weather. In winter time, the low sun can often dazzle drivers and a dirty windscreen will make the effects of low sun worse.
If you must travel in wintry weather, be prepared:
  • Carry water and de-icer in the car with you
  • If you are going on a longer journey, make sure you bring food, hot drinks, warm blankets and a fully charged mobile phone
  • Carry wellingtons or other strong boots and weatherproof clothing in case you have to get out and walk, or push a car
  • Do not assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.
  • Always clear all ice and snow off the car windows before setting out
While driving: 
  • Use headlights whenever visibility is reduced – for example, at early mornings and at dusk, when it's raining or in any gloomy conditions – but don't dazzle others with your main beam.
  • Slow down and leave plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front.
  • Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels lock, ease off the brakes.
  • Drive slowly on snow in the highest gear possible
  • Never overtake snowploughs or gritting lorries. The drivers have limited visibility, and you are likely to find that the road in front of them is worse than the road behind.
  • If your vehicle breaks down, pull off the road as far as possible and switch on the hazard warning lights
  • Take extra care to look out for cyclists as they turn at junctions
If you get stuck in snow:
  • Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper. Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
  • Use a light touch on the accelerator to ease your car out
  • Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car
  • Pour sand, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels – or even use your foot mats – to help get traction
  • If you must leave your car, arrange to have it recovered as soon as possible. If you think it is in a place that may pose a danger to other road users, call the police to let them know.

Driving in extreme weather

If it is foggy, raining, snowing or icy, make sure you slow down and keep well back from the vehicle in front of you. Watch out for locations where you may need to drive more carefully, either because of side winds or a greater risk of ice. Look out for:

  • Changes in road elevation or exposure
  • Where the road passes under or over a bridge, or where traffic is lighter (e.g. slip roads)
  • Bends in the road where there is a greater risk of losing control
  • Roads that may not have been treated

Driving in rain and floods

  • When the road is wet it can take twice as long to stop. Slow down and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
  • If your vehicle loses grip or 'aquaplanes' on surface water, take your foot off the accelerator to slow down. Do not brake or steer suddenly because you have less control of the steering and the brakes.
  • Try to avoid driving through surface water, as you might flood your engine
  • If you have to drive through floods, drive slowly, use a low gear and try to keep the engine revving at a high rate. Move forward continuously to avoid stalling the engine. When driving an automatic vehicle, engage and hold in a low gear.
  • Test your brakes after driving through water; they may be ineffective

Driving in fog

  • Use dipped headlights so that other drivers can see you
  • If it is foggy (less than 100m visibility), switch on your fog lights. Do not forget to turn them off when conditions improve.
  • Fog is often patchy so try not to speed up as visibility improves. You could suddenly find yourself back in thick fog further up the road.

Driving in windy weather

Though high-sided vehicles are particularly affected by windy weather, strong winds can also blow other vehicles off course. This can happen on open stretches of road exposed to strong crosswinds, or when passing bridges, high-sided vehicles or gaps in trees.

Above all, in any poor conditions reduce your speed and increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front. Try to avoid harsh braking, acceleration or steering movements as this is more likely to lead to loss of grip.