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Keeping Your Family Safe When Winter Driving

By: Kevin Dowling BA (IMC) - Updated: 9 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Family Safe Winter Driving Car Vehicle

Wintertime is traditionally a time when family gets closer. Unfortunately seasonal holidays usually mean lots of car journeys just around the time when the evenings are darker, the weather turns treacherous, and when vehicles are at their most unreliable.

Accident rates and fatalities both increase sharply during the winter months, so it is important to do whatever you can to ensure that you and your family stay safe when driving during the winter. Here are a few useful pointers to consider.

Car Seat Care

Let’s start with the safety of the smallest family members first. One of the many problems of driving during the holidays is trying to squeeze lots of family members into a car, and then taking them on relatively lengthy journeys. Never be tempted to remove the car seats for children in order to safe room or allow in additional passengers.

Be sensible about the length of your journeys too. Health professionals recommend that babies should not be left in their car seats for no longer than between one and two hours at any one time. This is because research indicates that babies left in a semi-upright position for any longer than this can restrict their breathing.

Whatever the ages of your children, try to allow for additional time for a good number of breaks, letting everyone get out of the vehicle to stretch their legs and feel more comfortable.

Always Be Prepared

Regardless of the length of your journey, make sure that you prepare beforehand. This could mean simple measures such as checking the weather forecast before you leave and letting those people at the other end know when you expect to arrive.

If the conditions are dangerous, think about whether your journey is absolutely necessary or could be delayed until the weather improves. An inflexible attitude and unwillingness to adapt do not go well in bad weather conditions!

Bring the Family Essentials

Long journeys can be dull, if you don’t give your passengers something to do to make the time pass more quickly. It is therefore always a good idea to travel with a kit of emergency essentials.

Make sure that you have plenty of drinking water (you never know when you might find yourself broken down or stuck on a road closed due to bad weather). Instead of chocolate or crisps, trying bringing nuts and dried fruit to help keep everyone’s energy levels high.

You may find that your car heating has broken down, or you need to turn it down to save petrol. Therefore you might want to bring some blankets and rugs, as well as hats, boots, gloves and wellington boots just in case passengers need to get out of the car in wet or snowy conditions.

Hopefully it won’t ever be needed, but a first aid kit is always another useful item to carry on board with you.

Check your Car Beforehand

Sadly most people are in too much of a rush to take the time to check their car before they set off, and in doing so preventing problems that could have a serious impact on their journey.

Just ten minutes should be all you need to check the following: tyre pressures, oil and water levels, your anti-freeze and windscreen washer levels are properly topped up and that all your headlights and sidelights are fully functioning.

Better to use up ten minutes before your journey instead of waiting hours for a repair van to attend to you for a relatively minor, embarrassing and wholly avoidable fault on your vehicle.

Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best

Accidents and breakdowns don’t happen too often, but they do happen, and there’s never a convenient time for them to do so.

It therefore makes good sense to always be prepared just in case the worst happens. It is recommended by automobile clubs that winter drivers should always carry with them a high visibility vest, just in case they need to leave their vehicle.

It is important to stress however that these vests should be kept somewhere safe and convenient, for example in a glovebox or in a footwell or behind the front seats, but should never be left in the boot.

Firstly, if your car is in an accident and hit from the rear it may not be possible to open the boot. Second, if you have to get out of your car to reach and put on your visibility jacket then you won’t be visible in those crucial minutes you take to find it and put it on.

Make sure instead that your visibility jacket is worn before you leave your vehicle, ensuring that everyone around you can see you clearly.

In the Event of an AccidentIf you do find yourself involved in an accident, make sure that you have a pen and paper with you to ensure that you take down the most important details at the scene of the accident.

You’ll need to gather details about the cars involved (registration number, make and model of the vehicle), as well as names and insurance details of the parties involved.

Driving during the winter need not be an unpleasant experience, provided that drivers take their time, plan ahead and take sensible precautions and measures to ensure that even things do go wrong, that they and their families are best equipped to deal with them.

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