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Irish Winter Road Safety Tips

Regularly check your Tyres

It is very important to check the tread depth of your tyres especially during the winter months. Thread depth on all tyres must be a minimum of 1.6mm in accordance with Irish law. You need to make sure you change your tyres before they go below this or you could risk getting a hefty fine. This will also help prevent your vehicle skidding during winter weather. Another thing to check regularly is your tyre pressure. Having the correct pressure in all tyres will increase the safety of your vehicle while driving. Remember, your tyres are your only point of contact with the road!

Use your lights and ensure they are in working order

Driving in the snowDriving in winter can be hazardous for a number or reasons but one of the main things to keep in mind is that you will now be driving during shorter days and longer periods of darkness. At this time of year it is very important that you check your lights regularly to ensure that they are in working order, especially your brake and fog lights! It is also a good idea to drive with dipped headlights during the day in the winter months to ensure you can be seen easily by other drivers during dull and rainy conditions or in case of a sudden change in weather.

Check your brakes

Checking your brakes regularly is an essential part of ensuring your safety while driving. Getting a mechanic to give your brakes a once over is always a good idea especially during the winter months. Brake pads and rotors can become worn over time and eventually will need to be replaced so getting a professional to check them out could prevent you from being involved in an accident. In general, brake pads need to be replaced every 60,000 kilometres but this can depend on a number of factors such as your driving habits, your environment and the type of vehicle you drive.

Allow extra stopping distance in winter

As we all know, stopping suddenly in wet or icy conditions can be extremely dangerous. It is vital that you allow a greater distance between you and the vehicle in front during the winter in case you need to stop suddenly. In general, you should allow for at least double the normal stopping distance during wet weather and even more during periods of snow or ice. You will also need to bear this in mind and allow extra room while driving near cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. It is also a good idea to reduce speed during the winter months and allow yourself more time for journeys.

De-ice and De-Fog Windows before driving

To ensure safe visibility while driving in winter you will need to allow extra time to de-fog or de-ice your windows before you set out on your journey. Many new cars have built-in de-fog/de-ice features in their windscreens but older vehicles may not. It could be a good idea to stock up on a de-ice spray from your local garage or keep an ice scraper in your car. If you have neither of these then a simple solution of salt and water poured over your windscreen should do the trick to remove any ice. But remember, never pour boiling water on a frozen windscreen!

Watch out for Black Ice

Ireland's notorious black ice can be extremely hazardous and extremely difficult to spot. Black ice is almost transparent and will give the road surface a just polished look. Keep an eye out for road surfaces that look shiny or glossy, that could be it! Black ice can often be mistaken for a puddle of water so be vigilant. Areas to watch out for in particular are shaded or sheltered areas on roads, areas covered by trees, under bridges or tunnels, as well as directly opposite high walls and buildings. Black ice is most commonly present at night or early in the morning when temperatures are at their lowest so it is very important to keep your eyes peeled at these times.

What to do in the event of a breakdown

Breaking down is not nice at any time of the year, especially in winter, so it is important to be prepared. Here are a few tips should your vehicle breakdown during the winter months:
  • Make sure your vehicle is visible to other drivers by putting on your hazard lights and using a warning triangle
  • Make sure you are visible to other drivers if outside of your vehicle by wearing a high visibility vest
  • Ensure your car is well in off the road/in the hard shoulder if possible
  • If your vehicle is causing an obstruction call the Gardai straight away
  • If your vehicle is broken down on a motorway, do not stay in the vehicle, stand behind the motorway fencing or barrier until help arrives
  • Keep up to date with traffic and weather reports

    In winter it is vital to stay up to date with traffic and weather reports. Make sure to listen to your local radio station's traffic reports before and during your journey. Check traffic reports and weather forecasts online before you set out on your trip and always try to avoid areas that are known for black ice or snow. At this time of year, it is very important to pay heed to any weather warnings and if advised to do so avoid all but essential journeys. Always allow a little extra time for your trips in winter and remember to slow down.

    Gentle steering and breaking is essential in icy conditions

    It goes without saying that you need to drive particularly carefully when the roads are icy. You should drive at a slow and controlled speed and in a high gear if possible. It is advisable to avoid braking or accelerating suddenly. Gentle steering is very important also, you should avoid sharp or sudden turns and take particular care on roundabouts. Always leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you and be prepared for road conditions to change over short distances. It is a good idea to have an emergency kit in the car when driving in these conditions that include things like; de-icer spray, ice scraper, torch, warm blanket, bottled water, and jump leads.