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Not Just Winter Driving Tips

I was filling in some time at my local car insurance offices recently (honestly, how long does it take for them to press the button that says I want to pay quarterly rather than annually?) and thumbed through a pamphlet on winter driving tips (on display even though it’s summer right now).  Now, it’s always good to be prepared for adverse driving conditions, but it struck me as I read this pamphlet that although a lot of the suggestions were specific to winter (e.g. scraping frost off the windscreen before you start driving – a pretty obvious suggestion, I thought), a good chunk of them were pretty good advice for any time of year and any climate, as follows:

  • Check your tyre tread depth. Never mind the fact that this is often a condition for getting roadworthiness certification, it’s also plain old safety.  Sure, in winter, you’re more likely to hit wet patches on the road that bad tyre tread could skid over, but we’ve had some pretty wet periods over summer, haven’t we?  Water-skiing, as far as I am concerned, is best done behind a boat on a quiet lake or harbour, not on the road. ABS and all the other driver assistance thingummies they put in car brakes these days can only do so much.
  • Check your tyre pressure.  Tyres that aren’t inflated hard enough will skid more easily on dry roads (they also take longer to stop on wet ones).  Too much pressure in your tyres also increases the chances of a skid and reduces grip (as well as making the ride bouncier and the tyres more likely to blow at bad moments).  Too many of us, myself included, don’t check our tyre pressures often enough, even though we need to get it right – and it will need to vary depending on whether you’re towing a trailer or not.  Excuse me a moment while I nip away from the computer to check the tyre pressure in my Volvowear_patterns
  • Have an emergency kit in your car in case you’re stuck for ages.  Their suggestion was to carry snacks, water and something warm to put on.  All those who have to Mum’s (or Dad’s) Taxi probably know about this one already, especially if you have children under the age of 10 and/or a diabetic child (who needs to carry emergency food supplies), or who live in a changeable climate that can produce sudden downpours.  Just remember to change the water periodically so it doesn’t give you dysentery.  I would also add some form of entertainment, preferably of the printed kind that can be read aloud if necessary.  If stuck for ages, you can only read the car manual so many times and manuals are useless for entertaining small children unless you rip the pages out and fold them into darts.
  • Check the level of your windscreen wiper fluid.  Again, excellent advice, especially if you’ve ever been splattered by effluent from a cattle truck, which can happen at any time of year on a rural road.  The pamphlet also suggested carrying extra water to top up the wiper fluid just in case.  Don’t forget that plain water can be used as drinking water and to top up the radiator as well as the wiper fluid.
  • Carry a cloth for wiping condensation off the windows.  This can strike at night or on a cold day in summer if people are sitting in the car with the windows up for ages.  The pamphlet recommended a microfibre cloth that cleans the inside of the windscreen at the same time as it removes the condensation, but anything soft and absorbent will do – even your sleeves.

Safe and happy driving, no matter what time of year it is,