How to protect your car - and yourself - during the big chill

We've all seen the pictures on TV and in the newspapers. It's chaos out there, with heavy snow and ice bringing roads, rail services and airports to a halt. Yes, it seems to happen every year - and no, we don't seem to be getting any better at dealing with it!

With all those weather-related road accidents, it seems certain car insurance claims are going through the roof. Here are some tips on protecting your vehicle during the big chill...The AA and the RAC are super-busy at the moment. The prolonged, heavy snowfall has led to people being trapped in their vehicles - some overnight - as roads have seized up and cars have broken down.

Top winter driving tips
The RAC has come up with some top winter driving tips, so you and your car can escape unscathed.

1. Give yourself extra time and stick to the main roads where possible; they're the most likely to have been treated.

2. If you're travelling any distance, let someone know where you're going and when you expect to arrive.

3. Make sure your car windows and lights are clear from ice and snow.

4. Before you leave, pack your car with extra clothing, food and drink, a scraper and de-icer, a charged up mobile phone, a torch and preferably a shovel!

5. Drive only as fast as the conditions allow - and remember stopping distances are longer in ice and snow.

6. Black ice can appear to be just wet patches on the road surface. It tends to form on bridges and overpasses where the cold air can pass above and beneath the road surface.

7. If the noise from your tyres on the road suddenly becomes quiet, it may well be because you're driving on ice.

8. Gentle manoeuvres are key to safe driving in ice and snow - use your accelerator, brakes, steering and clutch as gently as possible.

9. And if you're unfortunate enough to skid, steer into the skid and avoid the temptation to slam on the brakes.

I'll add a final one, based on a near-accident I saw yesterday: Get the snow off the roof of your car before you drive off.

It may not affect you, but it will certainly affect the person driving behind you if a huge flump of snow suddenly obscures their windscreen!
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