Winter Driving Safety Tips: Unbundling the Three Ps

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Driving during the winter season can be more challenging because weather conditions can change drastically over the course of a single day. During winter, the days are shorter, and the temperatures are colder. There is a likelihood of light rain, mist, fog and dazzling low sun. A few small changes to your driving behaviour can go a long way towards keeping our roads safe. Below, our three Ps of safe winter driving are designed to help you prepare your vehicle, prevent crashes, and protect yourself and other road users:

PREPARE for the trip

v Plan Your Winter Journey in Advance – you may get a scraper and de-icer if necessary. Most importantly, remember to prioritize your own safety and that of other road users.

v Allow Extra Time for Any Winter Journeys – allow extra time for any journey you are taking, particularly those either early in the morning or late at night, but also accept that you may find yourself running late on a few occasions due to an unexpected delay on the roads. Never drive in a reckless manner or without adequately clearing your windscreen, windows, and mirrors just for the sake of starting your journey a few minutes earlier.

v Watch Out for Breakdowns and Vulnerable Road Users – while the number of pedestrians and cyclists may drop slightly during the winter months, especially if weather conditions worsen significantly, it is still important that you remain on the lookout for these vulnerable road users while driving and allow extra space when overtaking.

v What to Do When Encountering a Winter Break Down – similarly, you are more likely to encounter a broken-down vehicle during the course of your driving during the winter, just like at any other time of the year. While there are some things you can do to avoid your own vehicle breaking down, if the road ahead is partially blocked by a breakdown slow down. Only overtake when it is safe to do so. Use your hazard warning lights to alert cars behind you to the obstruction.

v Keep The Fuel Tank Topped Up – When driving in bad weather, think caution, plan ahead; and make sure you have enough fuel. Keep the fuel tank at least half full.

v Check Oil, Water, Anti-freeze and Tyres – always check your oil and water levels, as well as the condition and pressure of your tyres, before heading out on a long journey. Sometimes, drivers underestimate the importance of tyres when it comes to driving safely. Tyres are your only contact with the road, therefore; take good care of them. Make sure they have at least the minimum tread depth and are at the correct pressure. This is particularly important when driving in wintry conditions. Anti-freeze is obviously vital in the winter, too, so be sure to check that your engine has some if it needs it.

v Top-up Windshield Fluid – fill up on winter washer fluid and replace wiper blades that streak. Make sure there is enough windshield washer fluid in the reservoir. It is advisable to carry an extra jug in the vehicle.

v Get an Emergency Car Kit – Have the appropriate safety and emergency winter equipment always stored in your car. The basic emergency kit for cars should include the first aid kit with seatbelt cutter, water, a blanket, extra clothing and shoes, a small shovel, a crank flashlight, a whistle (in case you need to attract attention), roadmaps, a copy of your emergency plan, a tow rope, jumper cables, as well as the fire extinguisher.

PROTECT yourself

v Buckle up and use child safety seats properly.

v Never place a rear-facing infant seat in front of an airbag.

v Children who are aged twelve years and below are much safer in the back seat.

PREVENT crashes

v Slow Down – fog or mist covered roads can make driving dangerous. Drive slowly and leave plenty of distance between vehicles.

v Avoid Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and or Alcohol – if you are planning to drink, designate a sober driver.

v Avoid Cell-phone Use While Driving – studies have shown that texting and talking on a cell phone while driving can be more dangerous than impaired driving.

v See and be Seen – clear all windows of fog or mist. If visibility becomes poor, find a place to safely pull off the road as soon as possible.

Winter driving can be hazardous and scary. Additional preparations can help make a trip safer, or help motorists effectively deal with an emergency. Let us all remember the three Ps for safe winter driving: PREPARE for the trip; PROTECT yourself; and PREVENT crashes on the road. #Safety First, There is No Second Chance.

Inserted by TSCZ, Operations Research and Marketing Section


Readers can contact TSCZ on the following email:

The Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe emerged from the Zimbabwe Traffic Safety Board which originated from a voluntary organisation composed of area associations in Harare (then Salisbury), Bulawayo, Gweru (then Gwelo) and Mutare (then Umtali).

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