It’s that time of year again to start planning. No not for Christmas, but time to start preparing for the annual UK road issues!

Black ice, snow storms, a lack of grit, torrential rain….it all happens in this glorious country during our winter months. And every year, unfortunately, the debate rages on about how ill prepared we always are.

Over recent years, the winters have become harsher and longer with 2010 – 2011 bringing heavy snowfalls, record low temperatures, national travel chaos and wide spread school disruption to the UK. The media dubbed this as ‘The Big Freeze.’ The Met Office recorded that it was the coldest December since the records began in 1910.

The M1 was temporarily closed during December and the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland was closed for ten hours, the first time ever due to heavy snowfall. Thousands of motorists were stranded across areas of the country, where in some places as much as 2 feet of snow fell.

It wasn’t just the motorists that were hit hard, as shops, which were already suffering, were knocked severely in the run up to Christmas with footfall down year on year and an estimated cost of £13 billion to the UK economy.

This weather horror story is a stark reminder to all motorists to remember to check vehicles over prior to setting off on journeys and also having an emergency bag stored in the boot.

Before setting off for journeys in the car during the winter months, you should check:
• Antifreeze – Make sure that you have the correct antifreeze and coolant levels
• Battery – Battery failure is the most common cause for winter breakdowns. Most car batteries that are over 5 years old struggle in the cold. Get the battery checked and if necessary, replaces, prior to setting off on long journeys.
• Fuel – No matter how expensive it is, always try and keep a minimum of a quarter of a tank just in case of unexpected delays.
• Lights – Keep some spare bulbs in car and always turn all lights on, including hazards lights, before journeys to check all are working and clean and visible.
• Tyres – Consider changing to winter tyres for the difficult months. Tyres should have at least 3mm of tread for winter motoring and tyres pressures should also be checked every fortnight.
• Windscreen – replace or get some spare windscreen wiper blades and also clean the screen before journeys inside and out to increase visibility
• Screen Wash – ensure you have enough screen wash before travelling. In bad conditions, lots of dirt, sludge and debris flies up onto windscreen.
• Locks – Spraying a little WD-40 in locks will help to stop them freezing up in bad weather.

Items that should be in your Winter Emergency Kit:
• Blankets and / or sleeping bag
• Shovel
• Some salt or sand to help clear any snow and ice
• Some pieces of carpet or thick cardboard to place underneath wheels to help regain traction
• Reflective jacket/s
• De Icer, scraper and gloves
• Torch and batteries
• Tow rope
• Battery jump leads
• Bottled water
• Snacks
• Extra screen wash
• A list of emergency contacts in case mobile phone fails or battery dies

As well as the Winter Emergency Kit, year round essentials such as a map, first aid kit and breakdown membership details should also be in the vehicle.

And remember, snow and icy conditions mean delays. Always remember the 3 S’s.