December 5, 2014
During November's Road Safety Week, I was reminded of all the little maintenance tasks that needed to be done on my car.
Every driver knows the importance of getting their vehicle ready for the winter weather. From checking tyres to replacing wiper blades, there are plenty of simple steps that can improve a car's safety, performance and handling in bad weather.
While many safety precautions are within your control, a major aspect that isn't is the condition of the roads, as unfortunately a recent Streetwatch survey by the AA showed that 40% of respondents listed their local roads as being in a terrible condition.
So what are some of the major hazards and how can we make sure our roads are up to scratch?
Season for Potholes
Potholes are more than a mere inconvenience or just a bump in the road. They can cause serious damage to your car and are a major hazard for motorcyclists and bicycle users. Last winter's heavy rainfall around the UK is still causing pothole problems and potholes are expected to be worse this year as the weather gets wetter and smaller potholes begin to grow.
While potholes can be reported to the Highways Agency and your local council, many motorists are finding that they are slow to act. Although the government did offer local authorities more funding for road repair earlier in the year, it simply wasn't enough to deal with the scale of road repairs required, with some reports stating there were 295 square miles of potholes in Britain.
What's more, with the recent austerity measures, many councils may not be able to pay out on claims made for damage to cars, or even injuries, which result from potholes. Even successful claimants are being made to wait, as the list of payments that need to be made grows more quickly than councils can afford to keep up with.
Effects of Poor Street Lighting
Another big problem that local authorities are struggling with is broken street lights. These often go unreported, leaving roads poorly lit for longer than necessary. Regular and routine inspections can take a long time, so it is always important to report any broken street lights to your local council.
With longer nights and dark morning commutes, many drivers can miss dangerous road conditions because of street lighting that doesn't work. These include potholes, ice patches, and minor flooding or puddles. Water on the road can be particularly dangerous as even a small puddle could conceal a large pothole underneath.
Street lighting also plays a vital part in spotting other road users as well as pedestrians.
What can drivers do?
Along with reporting problems with the roads and keeping your vehicle in good condition, there are other steps you can take to avoid damage or injury in winter conditions:
Tyres - Along with checking your tread depth and fitting new tyres if needed, it is also important to maintain the correct tyre pressure at all times. Bad roads and changes in temperature will affect your tyre air pressure, so be sure to check this regularly.
Speed - It is important to adjust your speed for bad road conditions. Icy or wet roads require longer stopping distances, and reduced visibility from fog and broken street lighting also requires slower speeds. Driving slower can also help reduce the damage caused by potholes, as slower collision with potholes will generally involve less damage to your car.
Be Seen - If you've been putting off replacing that headlight bulb, now's the time to move it to the top of your to-do list. Likewise using your headlights whenever visibility is less than optimal (rain showers, early mornings, dusk etc). Motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists should also wear additional reflective clothing to ensure you are easily seen.
Finally we need to take on board the central message of road safety week and look out for each other.
Commuting to work or doing the school run can be stressful when done in ideal conditions, so when the weather turns and traffic builds up we all need to be especially considerate, careful and patient with our fellow road users, as well as ensuring our own vehicle and local roads are in top condition.
Are you happy with the state of your local roads? What are your top tips for driving in winter?