RoSPA alert to drivers as Arctic “beast from the east” roars into the UK

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With severe snow and ice set to brace the UK, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is warning motorists to adapt the way they drive to suit the freezing conditions.

The UK’s leading accident prevention charity is advising drivers that varying weather conditions, including snow, ice, fog and winter sun, create different hazards on the roads.

Temperatures are forecast to plummet to as low as -14C from this weekend until February due to arctic blasts that have been nicknamed “the beast from the east”.

During heavy snow, motorists are advised to only make a journey if absolutely necessary, to keep speed down, leave enough space from the vehicle in front, and allow more time for their trip.

There were 32 people killed and 3,912 injured in reported road accidents when there was snow or ice on the roads in the UK in 2011, according to Department for Transport figures. Six people were also killed and 672 injured when it was snowing at the time.

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA, said: “The most important thing to remember about driving safely in wintry weather is to be prepared. Make sure your vehicle is in good working condition and add enough time for a journey so you are less likely to rush to make up for any delays.

“In extreme conditions, only make a journey if it is absolutely necessary. Don’t drive as normal on snow or ice, but reduce your speed to avoid the chance of skidding. Remember to increase stopping distances massively as you may need up to ten times the normal distance when braking on icy roads.

“Speed limits are the maximum for ideal conditions, so in difficult conditions, they are often too fast, especially on bends and corners.”

RoSPA’s tips for driving in extreme weather conditions can be found at its online Winter Safety Hub and include:

Check your lights are clean and working, and you may want to carry a blanket, a pair of boots, a shovel, a high-visibility jacket and a mobile phone (although don’t use it when you’re driving) in case you get stuck in the snow

Clear your windows and mirrors completely of snow and ice before you set off (make sure the heater is blowing warm air before setting off – it will keep your windscreen clear)

Keep the windscreen and windows clean and the washer bottle filled with screen wash to the correct concentration (which may be a stronger concentration during below-freezing temperatures)

Items to carry in the car include de-icing equipment (keep some in the house or garage too), a first aid kit (in good order) and a working torch

Avoid harsh braking and acceleration, or sharp steering, particularly on a bend as this could cause your vehicle to spin. To brake on ice and snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use your brakes gently

Visibility will probably be reduced, so use dipped headlights.

Families can find further key safety information for on the roads, in the home, in the community and at work at RoSPA’s Winter Safety Hub. Further advice on driving in wintry weather is available at: http://www.rospa.com/roadsafety/adviceandinformation/driving/winter-driving-tips.aspx