Get ready for winter is the police message

AS the days shorten and the mercury dips, Tayside Police have been taking the Get Ready For Winter message to drivers to ensure their vehicles are roadworthy for the months ahead.

The national campaign of education and enforcement coincided with the end of British Summer Time, beginning at 7am on Friday and ending 72 hours later.

As well as assessing the roadworthiness of vehicles, police officers also tackled other offences that impact on road safety, including speeding, seat belts and mobile phone offences.

Education also played a key role in the campaign, Tayside Police and all other Scottish Forces taking the opportunity to emphasise important road safety messages to road users as winter and the weather conditions it brings approaches.

While thoughts of winter conjure up images of snow and ice, there are a number of other weather and environmental factors that road users should take into account.

High winds, for example, as well as heavy rain and fog all affect journey times and should be considered prior to setting out.

The grip of a vehicle may be reduced if mud, leaves and other debris are on the road surface.

The sun sitting lower in the sky can also be particularly difficult, especially if combined with a dirty windscreen.

Ensuring that both driver and vehicle are ready for the road is an essential step towards keeping safe when using the roads.

As such, motorists are advised to consider the following:-

Get your vehicle serviced; ensure the cooling system in the vehicle is topped up with anti-freeze; top up the windscreen washer bottles with a suitable windscreen wash and wash the screen regularly; make sure the battery is fully charged; keep lights clean. Spray from the roadway will reduce the effectiveness of the beam and indicators; keep tyres correctly inflated and with sufficient tread, ideally 3mm or more; check and replace wiper blades if necessary; make sure windows and mirrors are kept clean and free of ice and snow in winter; windows should be fully de-misted/de-iced before moving off.

A low sun will seriously hamper vision and sunglasses are as useful now as they are in the summer.

The following pieces of equipment should be considered as essential ‘on-board items’ during winter months:- ice scraper and de-icer, torch, warm clothes and a blanket, a pair of boots, first aid kit, battery jump leads, shovel (If it is likely to snow), food and warm drink in a flask during particularly cold weather.

Drivers should also alter their driving according to the conditions around them and bear the following advice and information in mind -

Increase the gap between your vehicle and the one in front; on slippery roads it can take up to ten times longer to stop; drop your speed and allow more time to slow down.

Stop by decelerating earlier, rather than rely on braking alone; drive with care even if you think the roads have been treated; if you are unable to hear any road noise, this could be a sign you are driving on ice; use dipped headlights so you can see and be seen; if it is very foggy (less than 100 metres visibility) then use fog lights, but switch them off whenever conditions improve or they will cause undue dazzle, which is an offence; take care on flooded roads. The deepest water is usually nearest the kerb, select first gear and move forward immediately to avoid stalling the engine, while maintaining high engine revs. Test your brakes after passing through the water and on flood affected roads, if you vehicle loses grip, or aquaplanes, take your foot off the accelerator to slow down.

Sergeant Watson Fraser, Tayside Police HQ road policing unit, said: “Last winter again saw a particularly prolonged period of extremely cold weather, with very hazardous road conditions throughout towns and cities, as well as on main arterial and rural routes.

“People need to be prepared for these kinds of conditions. The measures outlined above, will help to ensure that you and your vehicle will be prepared for the worst.

“Breakdowns unfortunately do happen and in extreme weather conditions it might take some time before the emergency services or a recovery vehicle can reach you. By using these simple precautions you give yourself the best opportunity of staying safe and well until help arrives.”

Visibility around the roadways is extremely important during the darker, more inclement months. This is true for all road users, including pedestrians and cyclists. They should wear light coloured clothing which should ideally be both fluorescent and reflective. Cyclists should ensure that they wear a helmet and that their bike is fitted with lights and reflectors.

Sergeant Fraser continued: “This campaign is primarily aimed at providing education and advice to the road user. It gives an opportunity to remind everyone that driving in the winter months demands their full attention. It is very important to avoid distractions.”