Don’t be fooled by the wispy sunshine of the past few days, winter is far from done and motorists in East Anglia should be bracing themselves for an Arctic blast with temperatures of -8C at Easter.
A “polar vortex” – a large pocket of very cold air, the coldest in the Northern Hemisphere – will send icy winds from the far north next month, the cheery chaps at the Met Office have warned.
Snow is also expected as part of what they describe as “a crazy three months of weather”.
Councils, transport bosses and emergency services have also been briefed in a Met Office weather warning predicting snow and sub-zero temperatures around Easter Sunday (April 16).
But we shouldn’t be surprised. Cold April spells have seen the mercury plummet to between -5C and -11C in each of the past five years, Met Office records show.
So just as drivers are becoming accustomed to the warmer, lighter days, they’re likely to be thrown off course by winter’s last blast.
The message is simple. If you are driving in inclement weather, be prepared. Get your car winter-serviced and stock an in-car emergency kit (including blanket, flask containing a hot drink, shovel, torch, jump-leads, tow rope and an ice scraper).
If the weather is really bad it’s a good idea to stay at home but if you absolutely must drive, here are some safe driving tips that may help you complete your journey without mishap.
If you’re driving in snow or on icy roads:
Slow down. Even if you have four wheel drive, reduce your speed to about 10 miles an hour below the speed limit. If you still feel in peril, cut back another five miles per hour until you are comfortable.
Beware black ice. It’s almost impossible to see, but you can spot it when your headlights reflect off the road at night. It tends to form on bridges, which trap the cold; in the shadows of tall buildings, where the sun can’t hit it.
Avoid tailgating. Leave a good distance between you and the car ahead. That will give you plenty of room to stop in case of emergency.
Don’t brake during a turn. Gradually start turning the steering wheel and feathering the brakes lightly before a bend in the road. Coast through the turn with your foot off the brake and off the accelerator too. When you have your foot on the brake, the wheels stop turning. That’s when the car loses control and goes with the flow of momentum.
Turn into a skid. If you do skid, stay calm and take your foot off the brake and accelerator turning in the direction the car is skidding as the car slows naturally control will be regained.
If you’re driving in fog:
Turn on the fog lights. They are lower to the ground than headlights so they will illuminate the road better.
Pump the brakes before entering a fog patch. This alerts cars behind to back off. If you wait to brake when you’re shrouded in fog, you could get hit from behind.
Slow down before a hill. Be extra cautious driving over the brow of a hill because you won’t be able to see if there’s another car stopped in front of you.
If you’re driving in rain:
Slow down. Reduce speed by 5 or 10 miles an hour. At certain speeds, your car can aquaplane, lifting off the ground, and you will be driving on a layer of water. If that happens, don’t panic; reduce speed until the car feels normal again.
Avoid floods. It is difficult to gauge the depth of water on a flooded road. If water gets sucked into the air-intake valve and then the engine, the car will probably stall. Feather the brakes after you’ve driven through a deep puddle or flood.