Money Matters Team

Kitted out for bad weather

By Money Matters Team 17/02/2013

How to get prepared…

Make your car safe for the roads.

Money Matters contributor Mark Rowe shows how to make your car safe for the roads, in the event of wild weather.

Nobody can predict the weather, but there is every chance we’ll experience extreme conditions at some point: torrential rain, fog and freezing temperatures, even snow and black ice. It all puts additional pressures on cars and drivers who may not be used to making journeys in such difficult circumstances.

‘It’s important to be ready,’ says Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM). ‘Many roads are still pot-holed after last winter, so having a well-maintained car is extremely important.’

Ask yourself if the journey is really necessary, suggests Duncan Vernon, of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). ‘The sure-fire way to cut out the risks of driving in bad weather is not to travel.’ If there’s no alternative, he suggests, make the journey as efficient as possible by doing more errands at once rather than making repeated journeys. ‘The worst scenarios are unlikely, but they do happen,’ he says. 

Driving in the dark

Until British Summer Time returns on 31 March, we’ll be braving the rush hour and school run in the dark or half light. That’s why the Highways Agency says it is essential to wipe dirt and spray off headlamps, and make sure all bulbs are working.

Emergency kit

Carry an emergency kit, suggests Neil Greig of the IAM. ‘Include a warm coat, high-visibility jacket, a vacuum flask and food, robust boots, de-icer and scraper, a torch and a fully charged mobile phone. Also make sure you know your emergency breakdown number, and have topped up your anti-freeze.’

TLC for tyres

Roads made slippery by ice, slush or heavy rain take their toll on tyres, so give them extra care. The IAM recommends you have at least 3mm of tread, well above the legal minimum of 1.6mm, because more tread decreases stopping distance.

Plan ahead

Before you set off, it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast and traffic conditions so there won’t be any surprises – visit the Highways Agency website for more information. Make sure you have enough fuel for your trip and clean your front and rear windows.

Flat battery

Cold conditions put greater demands on the battery as we use wipers, heated seats, rear-screen heaters, fog lamps and more. At the same time, chilly weather reduces the speed at which a battery can recharge while you drive. ‘If you are concerned that your car is not prepared, take it to your local garage for a check,’ says Duncan Vernon of RoSPA.

How safe is your driving?

British motorists have improved many aspects of their driving behaviour year-on-year, according to the latest Sainsbury’s Bank Car Insurance Driver Behaviour Index (August 2012). The survey indicated that fewer drivers are using their phone without a hands-free set and only 3% admitted to driving without a seat belt, compared to 5% the previous year.

However, the report also reveals some drivers still display bad habits, such as wearing inappropriate shoes for driving and programming the sat-nav while on the go. Sainsbury’s Bank Head of Insurance, Ben Tyte, says: ‘It’s encouraging to see that driver behaviour on our roads is improving in some areas. Being a safe driver means you are not only protecting yourself and your family, but also other motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, so we’d encourage everyone to take extra caution while they’re behind the wheel, even if they already consider themselves to be a safe driver.’

This Money Matters post aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the opinions and views of external contributors and the content of external websites included within this post. Some links may take you to another Sainsbury's Bank page. All information in this post was correct at date of publication.