RSA Issues Road Safety Alert

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has issued a ‘Road Safety Alert’ today following a weather warning forecasting very cold, wintry conditions this weekend. 

From late this evening through the weekend, snow showers affecting north Connacht, Donegal and eastern counties of Leinster are likely. Generally throughout the country, there will be sharp or severe ground frosts at night, leading to ice formation on damp and untreated surfaces.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has, the following advice for motorists driving in snow and ice. They are;

Get a grip. Remember your only contact with the road surface is your tyres so it’s vital that they are up to the task in icy and snowy conditions. Check tyres, including spare wheel, and replace them if the tread depth falls below 3mm. Check that tyres are inflated to the correct tyre pressure. Lack of grip can occur even on treated roads so drive slowly in the highest gear possible, manoeuvre gently and avoid harsh braking. Replace tyres if necessary.

Make sure you can see. Clear your windows and mirrors before you set out, carry a screen scraper and de-icer. Do not use hot water on the windscreen as it can crack the glass. Replace windshield wiper blades if necessary. De-mist the inside of your windows thoroughly. Make sure your windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing fluid. Remember too that heavy snowfall will reduce visibility! Watch out for grit/salt spreaders and snow ploughs. The glare from the sun can be dazzling in the winter when the sun is low in the sky, so wear sunglasses in these conditions.

Check & use your lights. Use your dipped headlights so that others will see you. Make sure your headlights and taillights are all in working order, replace broken bulbs. Make sure lights are clear of snow.

Gently does it. Manoeuvre gently, slow down and leave extra distance between you and the vehicle in front. Too much steering is bad and avoid harsh braking and acceleration. Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin. Select a low gear when travelling downhill especially if through bends. Falling snow, fog, rain, or hail will reduces visibility. Do not hang on to the tail lights of the vehicle in front of you as it can give a false sense of security. When you slow down, use your brakes so that the brake lights warn drivers behind you.

Watch out for "black ice." If the road looks polished or glossy it could be, "black ice” one of winter's worst hazards: Black Ice is difficult to see! It is nearly transparent ice that often looks like a harmless puddle or is overlooked entirely. Watch out for black ice, especially in sheltered / shaded areas on roads, under trees and adjacent to high walls.

Give yourself a brake. If you get into a skid, you need to know if your vehicle has ABS (Anti- Lock Braking Systems). After you "Step" on the brake the ABS begins cycling — you will feel pulses in the pedal or hear the system working. It's easy to properly use antilock brakes: Remember - Step, Stay and Steer. Step on the pedal. Stay on the pedal. Steer around the obstacle. (A warning: A little bit of steering goes a very long way in an emergency).

For vehicle’s without ABS, you'll have to rely on the old-fashioned ‘Cadence Braking’ system: Push the brake pedal until the wheels stop rolling, then immediately release the brake enough to allow the wheels to begin turning again. Repeat this sequence rapidly. Your goal is to have the tyres producing maximum grip regardless of whether the surface is snow or ice.

How does your vehicle help? Check in your owner’s manual and find out if your vehicle has any safety assist technology like Electronic Stability Control (ESC) or Anti Lock Braking System (ABS) and know how they assist your driving in severe weather conditions. But remember technology offers no miracles. Don't let these lull you into overestimating the available traction.

Be Prepared! In prolonged icy or snowy driving conditions it is advisable to carry the following in the boot of the car:

    * High Visibility Vest
    * Tow rope
    * Spare bulbs
    * Spare fuel
    * A shovel
    * Appropriate footwear in case you have to leave your vehicle ie boots
    * A hazard warning triangle
    * Spare wheel (with tyre at correct pressure and tread)
    * De-icing equipment (Both for glass and door locks)
    * First aid kit (in good order)
    * A fire extinguisher (fully operative)
    * A working torch
    * A car blanket, additional clothing & some food and water

In preparation for driving you should also ensure:

    * The vehicle is properly maintained, serviced and engine oil viscosity is suitable for cold conditions.
    * Have the strength of coolant/antifreeze measured.
    * Ensure vehicle has adequate supply of fuel for journey.
    * Consider carrying some salt or sand. And
    * Give someone an estimated time of arrival at your proposed destination.
    * Carry a mobile phone and spare, fully charged, battery (if you don’t have a car charger)

Get informed. Listen to weather and traffic reports. The RSA has a new section of its website dedicated to ‘Severe Weather Advice for Road Users’. It has lots more useful advice on dealing with the difficult road conditions.

Stay at home. The best thing to do in extremely bad weather is to stay off the road. Take heed of warnings not to go out. This leaves the emergency services free to deal with real emergencies instead of rounding up stranded motorists.

Advice for Pedestrians & Cyclists ;
While walking on footpaths and in public places, or entering and exiting your car or truck, DO NOT underestimate the dangers of snow and ice.

Each winter slips and fall accidents cause serious injuries. Even when surfaces do not look especially icy or slippery, it is very possible that a thin sheet of transparent ice or “Black Ice” is covering your pathway putting you at risk. When you approach a footpath or roadway that appears to be covered with ice or snow, always use extreme caution.

Many slips and falls happen in places people regard as safe and secure, typically outside their front door, on the door step, on the path or while getting out of the car.

If you are out walking in snow or icy conditions wear appropriate footwear, don’t walk with your hands in your pockets, walk with your hands out and wear gloves so you can break your fall if you do slip.

Visibility is reduced in snowy conditions so wear high visibility clothing or carry a torch and if you cycle make sure your bike is fitted with lights front and rear.