Driving Safely in Winter

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INTRODUCTION   

Winter brings with it many additional driving hazards. But with planning and preparation these can be made much less of a risk.

There are three main elements to any winter driving scenario which we can influence: driving ability, vehicle preparedness and suitability, and journey planning.

1 . DRIVING ABILITY

Whilst older drivers have a wealth of experience, the decline in driving skills can be quite subtle. In winter this decline can be exacerbated by cold weather and an increase in joint pain and stiffness, impacting mobility and driving ability. A regular exercise regime and checks with the GP to confirm fitness to drive are very important.

  • Eye test. Winter driving involves driving in poor light conditions. At 75 we may require 32 times the brightness we did at the age of 25 to see effectively. Regular eyesight tests are therefore essential.
  • Medications. In winter we may need to take over-the-counter medicines for a cold. Check with the pharmacist whether these might make you feel drowsy, which would impact fitness to drive.
  • Mature driver assessments. If winter driving makes you nervous, take a confidence-building assessment offered by local Council run schemes or organisations like IAM RoadSmart or RoSPA Driving Review may assist. Visit our Courses page to find such a scheme in your area.
    If you have cognitive or mobility issues, then assessment should take place at a DVLA accredited Driving Mobility centre. Click here to find a centre nearest to you
  • Highway Code. Make sure to be up-to-date with the latest changes. It is now illegal to touch a smartphone screen when driving, other than to make an emergency call. Visit our Highway Code page to see all about the Highway Code and recent changes.
  • Sunflower Scheme. If you have a hidden disability, wear a Sunflower scheme lanyard and have a sticker on your car. This will discretely alert the police and emergency services that you may need a little more support. To learn more about Hidden Disabilities click here

2. VEHICLE PREPAREDNESS

Many older driver’s vehicles are only driven a few thousand miles a year, so extra-care needs to be taken in winter to ensure the
vehicle’s preparedness to drive, if it is not driven regularly. If these checks seem a little daunting, then organisations such as Halfords offer a winter check service that might be worth considering.

  • Battery health. Get a garage to check the condition of the battery. If the vehicle is only driven short distances, then it needs to be in good condition to hold its charge. Winter driving places higher demands on the battery with the extra-use of lights, heater, and wipers. RAC report battery failure is the number one reason for callouts.
  • Lights operation. Check all the lights are working and are properly adjusted, not forgetting the front and rear fog lights. If the car has ‘daylight running lights’ (DLR), and you don’t have automatic headlights, in gloomy conditions make sure to turn on your headlights. The DLR function does not include rear lights.
  • Tyre condition. Check tyre pressures are correct, and the tyres have sufficient tread. In the wet at 50mph a tyre with 1.6mm of tread, the legal limit, takes 25% longer to stop than tyres with 3mm of tread. We recommend replacing tyres at 3mm.
  • Wiper blades wear. Wipers work extra-hard in winter due to grit from the roads, so check the wipers clear the screen without smears. If they must be replaced then invest in a premium brand, which consistently come out top in comparative tests. When de-icing your car lift the blades off the screen to ensure they are not frozen to the screen.
  • Fluids level. Check the windscreen fluid is topped up, and with the correct rating for sub-zero temperatures. RAC recommend a pre-mix, effective down to -15C. Most modern cars use a long-life antifreeze but check if it might need changing.
  • Check the car has a can of de-icer and an ice scrapper. Allow an extra ten minutes before a journey to make sure all the car windows and mirrors are de-iced and demisted. Use the air conditioning to dry the air in the car and speed up demisting. Make sure the inside of the windows are clean to help minimise headlight glare. Don’t leave the car idling unattended – thieves are watching for this opportunity!
  • In-car equipment. This should include a warm blanket, mobile phone charger, torch, warning triangle, and a high visibility fluorescent bib in case occupants must get out of the car on an unlit rural road. Also, keep a pair of dry shoes in the car so your feet don’t slip on the pedals.
  • Smart phone app. If you have a smart-phone download the What3Words app. This identifies any location by three words which can be given to the emergency or recovery services. This is particularly helpful on roads with few obvious landmarks.
  • Emergency information. Have a Lions Club ‘message in a bottle’ with personal and medical details in the glove compartment to assist emergency services.
  • Refresh knowledge. Take time to re-read your car manual to refresh knowledge of how the car’s comfort and safety systems function. There may be advanced driving assistance systems you are not familiar with.  
3. JOURNEY PLANNING

  • Weather reports. Check if heavy rain, fog, floods, icy conditions, or snow are forecast. No journey is worth the risk.
  • Safe routes. Use online map services to plan your route to minimise more demanding roads. Use motorways or dual carriageways as much as possible – these are the safest classification of roads and are likely to have been gritted. Minimise routes with difficult junctions. The most frequent setting for older driver collisions is turning right at T-junctions. (If you break down on a motorway DO NOT put out a warning triangle as this could increase you risk of being knocked down.)
  • Safe times. If possible avoid rush hours – statistically the riskiest times for older drivers.
  • Safe light conditions. Minimise driving into low sun or driving at night. If glasses are worn make sure these have an anti-reflective coating to help reduce headlamp glare. If driving in low sunlight, consider wearing glasses with photochromic lenses, which automatically darken when exposed to sunlight. If glasses are required to drive, these must have prescription lenses.
  • Adequate fuel/charge. If driving an electric car and this is your first winter of ownership take even more care to identify where charging points are available. The extra demands of winter driving with heating, lights and windscreen wipers can reduce battery range by 15-20%. With a petrol or diesel car make sure to always have at least a quarter of tank of fuel in case there are unexpected delays.
  • Never rush. Allow time for rest stops, or even an overnight stopover on longer journeys. It is better to arrive late than not at all.
  • Report poor road condition. If there are concerns about the local road network, report these to the local and county councillors. A strong body of evidence of public opinion is a major factor in achieving improvements to the road infrastructure.

Driving Safely, in Winter, requires:

PREPARATION – PREPARATION – PREPARATION

Thanks to Nigel Lloyd-Jones (Co-lead Older Drivers Forum for Gloucestershire) for creating this useful, information.

Webinar on New Highway Code changes and road safety tips

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The Older Drivers Forum are running a FREE webinar on the new Highway Code, as well safe driving tips. This webinar will start by giving an update on the findings from the Older Drivers Task Force report published in November 2021. The webinar will then go over the new Highway Code and particularly the new changes. The webinar will then give advice on safe driving tips to help mature motorists carry on driving safely for longer. You will have the opportunity to ask questions to all the speakers on a Q&A section. The webinar will last for 90 minutes with a 10 minute break in the middle. Please register below to get your link to join the webinar. You DO NOT need a zoom account to join. We can’t wait for you to join this event!

We will host the the same webinar on two days, there is no need to register for both as they will be identical in content. Each webinar will have 1000 free places and you will need to register.

The webinar dates are:

Free Webinars

Rob Heard ODF poster

To register to watch a webinar click here

The Older Drivers Forum are supporting Project Edwards week of action, themed ‘Fit for the Road’ between the 13th to 17th September 2021. The Forum will be running a series of six free webinars during the week. Each webinar is on a different subject and designed to help and support the mature motorist to carry on driving safely for longer.  

Project EDWARD stands for ‘Every Day Without A Road Death’ and is an annual UK-wide road safety campaign backed by government, the emergency services, highways agencies, road safety organisations and British businesses.

Shockingly, on average 5 people a day are killed and around 150,000 people are injured each year on roads in Great Britain. Unfortunately, 20% of all deaths on our roads are older people. As older licence holders are increasing every year, fatalities for drivers aged 70 and over are forecasted to increase by 22% by 2040. 

We know that older motorists have a wealth of experience, confidence and tolerance. However, sight, hearing, reaction time and judgement of speed and distance may not be as sharp as it once was.

The Older Drivers Forum is about keeping mature motorists on the road safely for longer. Whether that’s helping giving practical and informative help and support to continue driving or pointing people in the right direction for an assessment to identify their driving needs – from wing mirror adapters to an elevated driving seat – the Forum’s here to help and signpost you to the people to help. The Forum is a not-for-profit organisation made up of experts in road safety – from representatives from the emergency services, to charities, local authorities and businesses specialising in keeping older people on the road.

The chair and founder of the Older Drivers Forum Rob Heard said “We are excited and proud to support Project Edwards quest to make the roads safer for all. We can all become complacent about our driving and often pick up bad habits, which if not addressed can increase our risk of an incident on the roads. This week of webinars will help give advice on a number of subjects from Confidence building appraisals, Safe driving tips, Electric vehicles and driving with various medical conditions. We have a special webinar on Thursday afternoon hosted by Valerie Singleton OBE on Dash cams, which is one not to miss. We have 1000 free places, so make sure you book early to reserve your place.

I am looking forward to welcoming you again to our webinars. We have had great feedback from previous ones we have run, one person who attended said ‘Extremely useful and informative. This is definitely one of the better webinars I’ve attended over the past few months, both in presentation and content.’ 

The webinars are FREE and have expert speakers as well as participants being able to ask questions. People will need to register their place for each webinar and this can be done by clicking here. We have increased the number of places available this time to 1000 free places, so should be able to accommodate anyone who wishes to register.

Dail Mail Podcast

Podcast Daily Mail

To listen to the Daily Main Podcast click here.
Should over-70s face compulsory health tests before being allowed behind the wheel? After a spate of accidents involving elderly drivers, the Medical Minefield team investigate whether stricter rules are needed, talking to Nigel Lloyd Jones (Co-organiser for Gloucestershire Older Drivers Forum), who lost his mother in an accident involving his elderly stepfather behind the wheel, and speaking to Sergeant Rob Heard, a retired policeman and founder and chair of the Older Drivers Forum, who argues that stricter rules are needed to deal with drivers (of any age) whose health makes them pose a risk to other motorists.