In Selwyn district, winter driving conditions can be less than perfect. Generally, daylight hours are shorter, temperatures are much colder and we have increased amounts of rain and fog, ice and periodically even snow settles on our roads. The district also has many shaded areas where large trees or hedges prevent roads from thawing during the cooler winter days.

Winter driving - be prepared for all conditions

All of these conditions contribute to making our roads more testing to drive on and extra care is essential. But bad weather does not act alone. The way we drive plays a big part and wet, slippery, roads can be unforgiving of even small mistakes, particularly on bends.

Winter driving does not have to be dangerous or intimidating. By preparing your vehicle and adjusting your driving for the conditions goes a long way towards ensuring your safety and that of others.

Driving in the wet

Key tip: Stopping distances nearly double on wet roads

Therefore, drivers should:

  • Slow down and keep a generous following distance between you and the car in front.
  • The two-second rule should be a four second rule.
  • Be extra vigilant – take corners slowly.
  • Heed road signs warning of flooding and remember that you will need more time to stop and avoid hazards in wet conditions.

Driving in the snow and ice

Key tip: Go slow on ice and snow

Whenever possible, avoid driving in heavy snow. If you cannot avoid it, slow down , and:

  • Allow for much greater braking distances
  • Avoid braking suddenly
  • To avoid skidding, give the brake pedal a few taps rather than one hard push
  • Remember to carry chains and put them on when necessary

Driving in fog

Key tip: In fog, turn on your headlights, not your park lights, and don't rely on the Auto Headlight setting

You should also:

  • Adjust your speed to the visibility levels.
  • Keep your headlamps on low (dip) beam, as high beam will reflect off fog and produce glare, further reducing visibility.
  • Only use fog lamps when visibility is severely reduced (e.g. by snow or fog). It is illegal to use fog lamps in clear conditions at any time as they can dazzle other road users.
  • Keep a generous following distance between you and the car in front.

Remember that automatic headlights in cars can be fooled on foggy days. There is enough light to make the car think it's daylight, and switch the lights off. Even when visibility is poor due to fog. Switch them to "On". Don't just rely on the "Auto" setting.

Driving with sun strike

Key tip: Keep your windscreen clean, inside and out

Sun strike can occur at any time, but is most likely during sunrise or sunset during the winter months, when the sun’s rays hit your windscreen at a low angle. This can make it difficult, or even impossible, to see. This is a very dangerous condition to drive in.

Keeping your screen clean can make the difference between seeing someone, and not.

Driving on winding roads

Key tip: Reduce speeds on bends and keep left.

Drive slower than you normally would – it only takes a split second to lose control in wet or icy conditions. Avoid sudden braking or turning movements that could cause you to skid. Accelerate smoothly and brake gently.

Summary

  • Consider if you need to travel, especially if the conditions are poor
  • Check the weather forecast and road conditions regularly
  • Increase following distances, the 2-second rule should be at least the 4-second rule
  • Winter maintenance vehicles may be on the roads, obey all instructions and do not pass unless instructed to
  • Always carry a cell phone, a torch and warm clothing in the car, just in case you get stuck in snow
  • Drive with your head lights on dip for increased safety
  • Drive slow on ice and snow
  • After snow begins to melt, be aware on ice on the roads, especially in shaded places and bridges