Staying Safe on the Road: Tips for Driving in the Darker Months

Winter is upon us, and as the days get shorter, you may find yourself looking for some tips for driving in the darker months. Buddy’s latest article will provide you with the information you need to stay safe on the roads as the daylight hours diminish.

It’s not just the reduced hours of daylight, but generally speaking, driving conditions can become more challenging and dangerous in winter. Reduced visibility, increased precipitation, and icy roads (yes, even in Sunny South Africa) can all contribute to accidents and collisions on the road. However, there are steps you can take to ensure your safety while driving in the darker months.

Ensure Your Vehicle is Roadworthy

Before setting off on a journey, it is important to ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy. This includes checking that your headlights, taillights, and brake lights are all functioning correctly. Additionally, you should check that your tires have adequate tread depth and are inflated to the correct pressure. Regular maintenance checks, such as oil changes and brake inspections, can also improve your vehicle’s safety and reliability.

Adjust Your Driving Habits

Driving in the darker months requires adjustments to your driving habits. For example, you should decrease your speed and increase your following distance to allow for reduced visibility and stopping distances. Additionally, you should avoid sudden movements, such as sudden braking or accelerating, as this can cause skidding on wet or icy roads. Being aware of changing road conditions and adjusting your driving accordingly can help to prevent accidents.

Use Your Lights Effectively

Using your lights effectively is essential for safe driving in the darker months. Ensure that your headlights are on and correctly aimed, and use your high beams when necessary. However, be aware of other drivers and avoid using your high beams when approaching or following other vehicles. Additionally, using your fog lights in foggy or rainy conditions can improve your visibility on the road.

Avoid Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents on the road, and this is especially true during the darker months. Avoid using your phone or other electronic devices while driving, as this can take your attention away from the road. Additionally, avoid eating or drinking while driving, as this can cause distraction and reduce your reaction times.

Prepare for Emergencies

In the event of an emergency, it is important to be prepared. Keep a fully stocked emergency kit in your vehicle, including items such as a flashlight, warm clothing, blankets, and food and water. Additionally, ensure that your cell phone is fully charged and that you have a charger with you at all times.

Avoid Driving While Fatigued

Driving while fatigued is a leading cause of accidents on the road. During the winter months, it can be tempting to stay on the road for longer periods of time to avoid the cold or bad weather. However, this can lead to fatigue and reduced reaction times. To avoid this, take regular breaks during long journeys and ensure that you get enough sleep before setting off.

Stay Up-to-Date with Local Road Conditions

It is important to stay up-to-date with local road conditions. During the winter months, road closures, detours, and other changes in road conditions may occur. By staying informed, you can avoid areas that may be hazardous or difficult to navigate.

Be Prepared for Ice (or Snow)

Although snow is rare in many parts of South Africa, ice can still be a hazard on the roads during the winter months.

Driving on ice can be a frightening experience, and it is important to know what to do if you find yourself in this situation. Here are some tips for what to do if you drive into ice:

  1. Remain Calm: Do not panic or slam on the brakes or make sudden movements. This can cause your vehicle to skid and make the situation worse.
  2. Remove Your Foot from the Gas Pedal: If you feel your vehicle beginning to slide on ice, remove your foot from the gas pedal. This will slow down your vehicle and help to prevent it from sliding further.
  3. Steer Your Vehicle in the Direction of the Skid: If your vehicle begins to skid, steer in the direction of the skid. For example, if the rear of your vehicle begins to slide to the right, turn your steering wheel to the right. This will help to bring your vehicle back under control.
  4. Do Not Overcorrect: It is important not to overcorrect when driving on ice. This means you should avoid making sudden or jerky movements with the steering wheel, as this can cause your vehicle to spin out of control.
  5. Use Your Brakes with Caution: If you need to slow down or stop your vehicle on ice, use your brakes cautiously. Apply gentle pressure to the brakes rather than slamming them on suddenly. If your car has anti-lock brakes, this will help to prevent your wheels from locking up and causing your vehicle to skid.
  6. Remain Alert: Finally, it is important to remain alert when driving on ice. Be aware of changing road conditions and adjust your driving accordingly. Avoid sudden movements or distractions while driving, as this can increase the risk of an accident. Buddy urges you to follow these tips and be aware of changing road conditions so you can help to prevent accidents and ensure your safety while driving in the winter months.