Essential travel only
First of all, in line with the Scottish and UK governments’ legal requirements for January 2021, you shouldn’t travel unless it’s to carry out essential work, or for family reasons, such as bringing food and supplies to a relative in need, or for moving house. And that’s all the more pertinent when a blast of Arctic weather turns the tarmac to tundra.
Leave in plenty of time and don’t rush. Harsh braking or acceleration makes your vehicle less stable on the road and increases the risk of an accident.
Make sure your tyres are at the correct pressure and that you have plenty of fuel in case of any weather-enforced detours.
Extra fuel is important to drive in cold weather because heating your car consumes more fuel, meaning you could run out more quickly – that’s a nightmare scenario in freezing conditions.
But should the worst happen and the slippery surface puts your car out of action, because of a lack of fuel or otherwise, you’ll need extra supplies to keep your spirits up until help arrives, such as spare blankets, drinking water, and dry, calorie-rich snacks; these can be kept in the vehicle’s boot.
You should also charge your mobile phone before travelling and carry a charger for charging on the move; you may need it to alert recovery services as to your whereabouts, or less drastically, for letting close contacts know of any unforeseen changes to your travel itinerary.
Finally, keep a powerful torch in your car, in case you need to work out your surroundings on more remote journeys, or to attract attention on a wintry night when not many other cars may be on the road.
Keep your distance
Braking distances dramatically increase on icy roads. While a wet surface above freezing doubles your stopping distance, on icy tarmac, this increases to ten times. That means you need to leave lots of room between you and the vehicle in front.
Avoid an uphill struggle when starting your ice-bound vehicle on an incline. Park your car or van on a flat road with the onset of icy weather so that when you start it up again you won’t have to over-rev the engine to get moving. Over-revving could make the vehicle’s wheels spin, and you could end up skidding downhill backwards, even after you’ve applied the handbrake.
Lastly, if you lose control of your vehicle on the ice, it’s important not to ‘fight against’ the vehicle when it starts to skid. That means you should not steer sharply or slam on the brakes, but instead bring the vehicle in line with the direction in which it skids. So, for example, if it slides to the left, you should steer to the left and bring your vehicle gently into line again.