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Common Sense From the IAM About Driving in Difficult Conditions

Published 27 October 2013

Now that the clocks have gone back bringing night an hour earlier the IAM's Peter Rodger, first offers advice about driving in the dark.

To improve your view as far as possible, keep your lights and windscreen clean. It’s easy to forget the inside of the windows, but keeping them clean helps prevent them from misting-up.

Use main beam on a dark unlit road, but when other drivers or riders are approaching make sure you dip your lights to avoid dazzling the oncoming road users.

Making sure you can stop safely within the distance you can see to be clear still applies in the dark. Look at how the traffic ahead behaves for clues to possible problems you can’t see yet – the way other lights behave can tell you a lot. Use the headlights of the car you are following to show you to let you see further ahead.

Don’t look at any lights themselves, but at what they show – so you can make use of more of the light there is from any source, without losing your “night vision” any more than you have to.

Use the reflective road signs and lines to help you see where the road goes and where there are particular problems.

If an approaching car forgets to dip its lights, look beyond the lights to their left to avoid being dazzled as much.

If it’s gloomy in the morning, don’t forget to put your lights on then too.

And if your car is fitted with Daytime Running Lights, remember they only show at the front, not the back. You need to put your lights on.

IAM chief examiner Peter Rodger said: “The risk of collisions increases in the dark as visibility is reduced1. In poor weather remember that you still need to see things like large pools of water or fallen trees in the dark – so adjust your driving to suit all the conditions combined.”

Following warnings of severe weather over the next few days, the IAM is also advising on how to drive in windy weather.

Plan your journey – is there a route with less exposure to the weather and less risk of fallen trees? Choose a sheltered route if you have the option.

Strong winds are not constant, they are usually gusty so ensure you hold the steering wheel firmly. Overtaking high sided vehicles or driving past buildings can result in a sudden gust from the side as you clear.

Give cyclists, motorcyclists, lorries and buses more room than usual. They get blown around by side winds easily. Even pedestrians can be blown about.

Watch trees and bushes on the roadside - their branches can show you how strong the wind is.

Look well ahead, that way you don’t need to take your eye off the road and you can see any windy patches before you get to them.

Go slow enough to cope with the gusts. Wind can get under a car and reduce its handling and braking significantly.

Keep an eye on what is happening to other vehicles – where they are affected will give you a pre warning.

Go slowly enough to cope with the tree that has fallen right across the road, just round the bend where you can’t see it. Be careful of debris, try and have space beside you in case you need to dodge it.

Rodger said: "If the weather is really bad, consider whether you could postpone your journey until it settles down."

More at IAM

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