Every year in New Zealand, adverse weather conditions contribute to crashes on our roads. However, bad weather seldom causes crashes. Crashes generally occur because people haven’t adjusted their driving to take weather conditions into account.
Extra care and attention are vital when driving in winter.
- Check road conditions before you travel.
- Have your vehicle checked out. Many garages offer safety checks.
- Make sure your heater, fans, wipers, defrosters and demisters are working.
- Make sure indicators and all lights are working.
- Use antifreeze in your car’s engine during winter.
Wet weather driving
- Use your headlights in wet weather to make it easier for other drivers to see you.
- Wet roads can be very slippery, so be aware it will take longer to stop.
- Slow down and keep a generous following distance between you and the car in front. The two-second rule should become at least four seconds.
- After driving through surface water, pump the brakes several times to dry them out.
Snow and ice
- Whenever possible, avoid driving in heavy snow. If you do need to drive, use chains and keep it SLOW.
- Avoid sudden braking. Give the brake pedal a few soft taps rather than one hard push to avoid skidding.
- Carry chains and use them when necessary.
- Take extra care climbing and descending hills in snow – climb hills in the highest possible gear. Lowering your engine’s revs will give your car better traction and make your wheels less likely to spin. Drive downhill very slowly, putting your vehicle in a low gear before starting the descent.
- To prevent ice forming on a parked car, cover the windscreen with cardboard or a floor mat. You can use an ice scraper or credit card to remove ice.
- If you are driving on a gritted road, drive on the grit, rather than on the tracks made by other vehicles. This will help keep grit spread across the road.
- Watch for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Watch for shaded areas where ice may remain all day and remember that ice can occur in different locations from one day to the next.
- Remember, recreational 4WDs are no safer in winter conditions than other vehicles.
- If you are walking on frosty mornings, remember that footpaths are not gritted or treated with CMA. Put a pair of old, woollen socks over your shoes to increase grip or consider buying some traction grips to pop on your shoes.
- Adjust your speed to the visibility levels.
- Keep your headlights on low, as high beams will reflect off fog and produce glare.
- Front fog lights may be used. These have a wide, low beam and produce a yellow or white light.
- Rear fog lights, which produce high intensity red light, should be used only when visibility is very poor.
Low winter sun
- The sun sits lower in winter and can create glare or sunstrike, particularly when you are driving on hills. Be prepared for this when driving at sunrise or sunset, especially when turning or driving towards the sun.
- Keep your windscreen clean, inside and out. Dust and grime on the windscreen can make the effects of low sun much worse.
- Wear sunglasses and use your car’s sun visors.
- It gets dark earlier in winter. It is important to put your lights on as soon as it starts to get dark.
- You must have your lights on 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise, or any time when you can’t see an object or person 100m away.
- Be aware of blinding other drivers with your headlights on full – dip them when a vehicle is coming from the other direction.
- Drive at a speed appropriate to the conditions. It is harder to see hazards and judge distances at night.
- Watch for pedestrians and cyclists as it is harder to see them at night
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