As the writer of this article, I have spent a few years previously living overseas in Spain. I mention this, because on the drive into work this morning, as the car’s temerature gauge showed just 1 degree after it had risen from -0.5 degrees, I still witnessed idiots hooning past me in their cars and driving just as if it was a normal trip out on a dry Sunday Morning. In Spain, particulary in the mountainous southern region of Andalucia, rain was also pretty rare, and heavy rain perhaps only reserved for a couple of times of year.
But in Spain, some of their roads are built to prevent them from melting in the extreme summer heat, and this means that glass remnants are sometimes added to the road base. This is great in the dry, but when it rains, the roads become like an ice rink and those who have never, or rarely driven on such a surface would only find out too late that it takes a different sort of discipline to drive across this new, slippery surface. This time of year at AutoNational we see an increase in the number of accident recovery requirements, often in pretty well known accident blackspots.
The problem seems to be, both in Spain and in the UK when it occasionally snows, that some drivers either forget how to adapt to different conditions, or perhaps have never needed to before, i.e. newly qualified drivers or those driving a different vehicle to previous years. There’s also a 3rd consideration, in that as cars have become more solid and built for safety, that we have a false perception of our own ability and the ability of the vehicle that we are driving.
Poor maintenance can also lead to problems. For example, when you think about it, all that stops our backsides dragging along the tarmac and the only contact the car has with the road, is 4 round rubber rings, or tyres. Tyres with plenty of grip, and particulary at this time of year, grippy tyres designed to work better in colder conditions, will be far more effective in the icy and wet conditions than a tyre that is nearing it’s legal limit by way of tread. Brake pads too can sometimes take longer to warm up, and thus take longer to be more effective on colder days than on sticky summer commutes. Sudden braking in the ice or light snow snow in a car that hasn’t warmed up properly yet, can result in the brakes not engaging as effectively as they possibly could.
There is of course a certain novelty to snow. There’s a child inside all of us and who can resist the odd sneaky snowball fight or walking in snow drifts and hearing that crunching sound under foot. The optimistic amongst us also like to think that it may lead to a day off work (long gone are those days!) So, there is also sometimes a temptation amongst some drivers to enjoy the white stuff whilst driving, and perhaps demonstrating their own vehicles superiority in these conditions. Obviously, in certain environments (i.e. on your own private property) this can be acceptable, but it’s often the actions of the over confident that can lead to accidents, and the Police would take a dim view to anything that they consider to be careless or reckless driving.
Finally, we’ve mentioned this since the first day of winter, but it’s really important to ensure at this time of year that your windscreen washer bottle are kept topped up with proper screen wash. Screen wash will not only help with the obvious but will also help stop the fluid freezing. With more salt on the roads, we’ll all be using much more windscreen washer liquid, and thus non binding wipers and screen wash that hasn’t frozen is a important requirement before setting off.
Drive carefully out there.