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Beating Winter Roads: how to winter-proof your vehicles for work and personal use

Guest blog from Stevie NicksJust Another Magazine

Cold, dank and miserable? Driving for work and pleasure gets precarious when winter sets in — but you needn’t give your vehicle the cold shoulder. 
Whether driving is your job or you simply have to pick up supplies, you’ll need to winter-proof your vehicles until the roads thaw out. In this article we explore the following ways you (and your employers) can prepare to go out on the roads for winter: 

  • Packing an emergency kit to prepare for the worst-case scenario
  • Monitoring the way you drive with tech and common sense
  • Spying red flags by performing a walkaround
Read on as we explore these tips in detail, outline how to integrate them with your routine — and promote a safer driving culture during winter. 

Equip vehicles with an emergency kit
Most road accidents occur in winter. No matter if you're a seasoned driver or a Sunday stroller, always equip your vehicles with an emergency kit just in case. 

Unsure what to pack in your emergency kit? Here are the bare essentials: 
  • Ice scraper & de-icer: remove ice and snow to boost vision and avoid fines/penalty points on your license. 
  • Warning triangle: a red LED warning triangle which makes your broken down vehicle more visible around bends and bumps. 
  • Spare torch & batteries: help light your way during long winter nights.
  • First-aid supplies: pack a first aid kit (follow this guide). 
When out on the road during winter, it’s best to plan for the worst situation — this way you are always prepared.

Monitor the way you behave behind the wheel
The way you drive is often as (if not more) important than what you drive — but how you monitor yourself behind the wheel varies from situation to situation. 

In this section, we discuss how professional drivers monitor their driving compared to when they’re off the clock. 
Professional drivers use fuel card telematics to inform their driving style
Vehicles are big business — and if you drive professionally for a living you don’t have the luxury of staying at home during the winter months. 

When it's your job to get behind the wheel, rain or shine, you’ll be expected to perform, but in return, your employers are responsible for your safety. 

In recent years, the rapid development of real-time data technology makes it possible for remote operators to implement new safety measures based on your driving performance. 

Information is a hot commodity: but where does all this knowledge come from? After all, having a whacking great computer obscure your windscreen raises even more safety issues than it solves. 

Luckily, the latest tracking systems are available with most fuel cards — a simple payment method used to pay for fuel, which also integrates with and records real-time telematics on a fleet management application. 

The data gathered from these cards help inform your driving style by recording the frequency of these bad driving habits: 
  • Braking too harshly/suddenly
  • Exceeding the speed limit
  • Wasting fuel  
While an erratic driving style might look good on your delivery times, in the long run, it proves costly for your safety and the business, especially in the winter when the roads are most slick and lacking in grip. 
Everyday drivers monitor their behavior behind the wheel
Being an everyday driver you won’t have access to big corporate telematics data for two
reasons:

1. You don’t get much bang for your buck
2. It doesn’t make any sense 

So long as you’re serious about driving more safely during the winter months, you can instead monitor your driving behaviour by practising a few simple tips and tricks

There is always room for improvement no matter how confident you are in your abilities — and while there are numerous safety strategies you can adopt, here are some we know work for us: 
  • Take your time: don’t treat the speed limit as a target at the best of times, but certainly not in tricky winter conditions. 
  • Be wary of others: give people lots of space and be extra cautious when changing lanes. If the conditions are affecting you then chances are everyone else on the road is struggling too. 
  • Cut the noise: turn down the radio and don’t be afraid to quieten down passengers so you can concentrate on the road. 

When the roads look precarious, remember these tips and tricks, they could be a real life-saver. 

Perform walkarounds before departing
Whether you drive a vehicle for work or you simply use one to get around, often we take our mechanical chariots for granted without checking whether they’re worthy for the open road. 

Nine times out of ten you’re probably alright and the vehicle will tackle the task just fine — but is it worth risking one rogue trip? We argue not. It’s best to err on the side of caution, especially during winter when road safety is at its most critical.

The solution: take responsibility for your safety by performing regular walk around inspections before departing. 

While walkarounds can feel cumbersome, they help you spot any red flags that exacerbate the dangers of winter driving. Here is what to look out for: 
  • Tyre tread: 1.6mm is the legal minimum tyre tread limit, but aim for 3mm to be safe. Also ensure you have the correct tyre pressure (use this guide) and check for any bumps, bruises or any general wear and tear. 
  • Oil level: one in three breakdown inspections are low in oil according to RAC.
  • Fuel: you don’t want to be running out of fuel in cold conditions.
  • Wiper blades: these don’t last forever, so keep an eye out for splits and cracks, which can obscure vision during rain or snow.
  • Electrics: lights are essential so you can see and be seen. Walk around your vehicle and check your tail lights, brake lights and headlights are all working properly.
  • Coolant: stay topped up on engine coolant. A frozen engine means your vehicle will cease and overheat.
Driving in winter is much less nerve-racking when you trust your vehicle, which is why walkarounds are so important in promoting a safe driving culture.  

Make sure to double-check everything — and pay close attention to your tyres, these are the vehicle’s only connection to the road, they need to be in good condition to maximise grip over icy/wet terrain.

Wintertime poses many risks to many types of driver, but you don’t have to be scared to operate a vehicle so long as you’re sufficiently prepared. 

From equipping emergency kits and performing a walkaround to becoming more aware of your driving habits, winter-proofing your vehicle is all about being a little more diligent. 

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