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Avoiding a Traffic Accident in Poor Conditions

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 12 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Traffic Accidents In Poor Conditions

Avoiding accidents can be difficult at the best of times, but when there are poor road conditions or inclement weather, your skills as a driver can be further tested. For many drivers who consider themselves good drivers, the thought of being involved in a road accident seems almost unbelievable.

Many have the 'it'll never happen to me' viewpoint and hopefully most are right. However, in poor conditions even the most skilled should take care to avoid any possible accident situations.

Winter Driving is Always More Hazardous

The cold winter days and nights bring with them their own set of hazards that can at times be impossible to avoid. Every driver should be more aware of the road conditions and other drivers around them in poor winter conditions. Always make sure that your car is in good condition and take a winter emergency pack in your car. It should have in it a blanket, food, water and of course always have your mobile phone with you.

Checking your car regularly will hopefully mean you avoid any technical problems with your car that can lead to accidents. Ensure you have your screen wash topped up with a winter additive as many people suffer accidents in winter due to their windscreen freezing over quickly.

Another important part of driving in poor winter conditions is to make sure that your tyre tread depths are legal. The current legal minimum tread depth for tyres in the UK is 1.6mm. The better your tread depth, the safer you will be able to steer in poor driving conditions such as ice and snow. This small part of regular vehicle checking could be the difference between being in an accident and narrowly avoiding one. There are a few excellent tips to remember when you're driving in bad winter conditions:

  • Avoid quiet roads as they are less likely to have been gritted compared to main roads
  • Bad conditions mean you need more time for braking and accelerating. Leave more of a gap between you and other cars
  • If you are involved in an accident, stay with your car unless it's in a dangerous spot. It'll keep you warm inside until someone comes to help
  • If visibility is really bad, below 100 metres you can use front or rear fog lights. Always remember to turn them off when you don't need them as they may dazzle other drivers causing more of a hazard

Mind the Gap

It doesn't need to be winter to have poor driving conditions. If you're driving in poor visibility, you need to remember that just as you can't see others, they can't see you. If you're queuing, leave a larger gap between yourself and the other cars. One of the most common accidents is being hit from behind in a line of cars. Try to always be aware of what vehicles behind you and in front of you are doing.

The concept of leaving a gap is such a simple one, but it's so important in driving safely in poor conditions. On both motorways and single carriage roads, you should always leave enough of a gap that you're not likely to be bumped from behind. Also, watch out for motorcyclists. Many will try to overtake, especially in poor driving conditions where the traffic may be slower or stationary. Ensure you know where they are at all times.

Other Poor Conditions and Avoiding Accidents

When the first rain starts falling after a lengthy dry spell, the roads can often become extremely slippery. When this happens, many car accidents occur due to skidding as the rubber from vehicle tyres that has built up on the road during the dry period becomes lubricated. The best way of avoid turning this into an accident is to stay well back from other vehicles and start slowing down earlier when needed.

If you combine the rain soaked slippery roads with the dark nights and low sun of Autumn, you have another set of potentially hazardous driving conditions. Windscreen dazzle can be a huge influence on driving accidents and many people find that if they're dazzled by the sun, they lose focus on the control of their car and end up in an accident. To try and reduce dazzle as much as possible, keep your windscreen clean and free of any smears.

You can also use dipped headlights in poor visibility, not necessarily so that you can see, but more so that others road users can see you too. If you are driving in poor conditions without any lights, you may be at fault for any accident involved where someone runs into you.

The most important points to remember when driving in poor conditions is that accidents happen more easily so you must stay alert, focused and attentive. Be aware of all other road users, from other drivers to pedestrians and always give yourself more space than normal.

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