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Winter is coming… and it is expected to be the most savage winter in more than 50 years. Meteorologists are warning that we could face months of heavy snowfall and icy arctic winds for several months starting as early as late October. The crisis is sparked by the plummeting temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean which are the root cause.

Emergency services are preparing for a repeat of the 1962 winter. Local authorities across Scotland have increased their gritting fleet by over 25%. Energy companies are working hard to ensure we have sufficient power supply. Airports and train stations prepare for mass disruption. But when we’re not used to such harsh conditions and with no huskies on standby how should you prepare?

Over the next few weeks we will publish our top Health and Safety tips for gearing up for winter. This month we focus on winter driving;

1) When it is snowy and icy outside it is more tempting than ever to take the car. However, it is also more likely than ever that you will have an accident. It’s important to listen to police and weather advice and avoid the risk all together by not driving in adverse weather conditions.

2) If you cannot avoid travelling by car, prepare your vehicle. With poor road conditions your tyres are more important than ever. A tread of at least 3mm is recommended for winter motoring. Check the condition, tread depth and pressure of tyres (including the spare).  Check the brakes work well and that your wiper blades are in working order as they will face increased use. Add antifreeze to your windscreen washers and ensure they are topped up. Ensure your lights work and that you have a spare bulb, just in case. Most importantly take care of your battery. With lights, heaters and wipers all on it faces increased demand. If you do a lot of short trips at night you should charge it to avoid being stranded somewhere and try to reduce the need by turning off heated windows etc. when not required.

3) Prepare for your journey. Leave early to give you time to defrost windows and allow you to reduce your speed to match the road conditions. Plan routes to favour major roads which are more likely to have been cleared and gritted.

4) During the journey maintain a greater stopping distance. Wet and Icy roads will extend your stopping distance by 10 times. Wear dry shoes for driving. Pull away slowly in second gear to avoid wheel spin. Try to avoid stopping part of the way up a hill by leaving space between you and the car in front. Gently does it – brake and accelerate gently to avoid wheel spin.

5) Preparing for emergencies – Ensure that if your car does break down you can survive comfortably until help arrives. As well as de-icer and an ice scraper you should ensure you have: warm clothes and a blanket, torch, high visibility vest, water, first aid kit, jump start cables, shovel, and mobile phone charger. For long journeys food and a warm drink in a thermos are advisable.

6) If you do encounter a skid, steer gently into it - for example, if the rear of the car is sliding to the right, steer to the right. Do not take your hands off the steering wheel or stamp your foot on the brakes.

7) Do not use cruise control. If you aquaplane the car will continue to accelerate which will make the skid worse.

8) Driving in inclement weather can be particularly tiring so, if possible, switch drivers regularly.

Ultimately, if in doubt stay put. Put safety ahead of punctuality. Postpone your trip until the weather clears and avoid it if possible. If during the trip you feel the weather is too bad to continue, pull over and stay put, but be sure you do so in a safe area.  

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