Motorists have been warned to be extra careful and take no risks on the roads as Ireland braces itself for polar conditions with temperatures forecast to drop as low as -5C.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is advising all road users to take extra care when using the roads over the next 72 hours as Met Eireann has issued a yellow weather warning nationwide for sleet, snow and ice.
Very cold wintry weather will develop from Wednesday evening and will last until midday on Saturday. There is a risk of 3-5cm snow nationwide with particularly heavy falls expected in Ulster, Connaught, North Leinster and West Munster. The low temperatures will mean roads may be icy.
The RSA is asking road users to check local weather and traffic conditions and be aware of the conditions before setting out on a trip.
The RSA has issued the following advice for drivers
• 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.
• Remove ALL snow from your vehicle before commencing your journey. Snow left on the roof will become loose and can drop onto the windscreen during braking, thereby causing sudden and severe restriction to your vision. It can also fall off during your drive and cause injury to pedestrians or a reflex action by another driver.
• In snow and icy conditions slow down, use all controls delicately and leave extra distance between you and the vehicle in front. Too much steering is bad and avoid harsh braking and harsh acceleration. Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin. Select a low gear when travelling downhill especially if through bends.
• Remember that heavy snowfall and rain reduce visibility. Use dipped headlights and decrease speed smoothly.
• Do not drive on the tail-lights of the vehicle in front (Target Fixing). This can give a false sense of security and you will be too close to be able to brake safely. In heavy fog, turn off your radio and let down your driver’s window a fraction, so as you can hear other traffic.
• 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. It can occur especially in sheltered / shaded areas on roads, under trees and adjacent to high walls.
• Watch out for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists and allow extra space.
• The best thing to do in extremely bad weather is to stay off the road. Take heed of warnings not to go out and travel only if absolutely necessary. This leaves the emergency services free to deal with real emergencies instead of rounding up stranded motorists caught in snow.
Advice for Pedestrians and Cyclists
• While walking on footpaths and in public places, or entering and exiting your vehicle, DO NOT underestimate the danger of ice.
• 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. 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, always use extreme caution.
Advice from Allianz Insurance - take your time!
Leading roadside assistance providers, Allianz Global Assistance Ireland, is urging drivers to take some basic steps to keep safe with treacherous road conditions expected during the freezing spell.
Roland Hesse, Managing Director Allianz Global Assistance Ireland, says the company expects an increase in call outs over the next few days with a status yellow warning due to come into effect at 6 p.m. today, (Wednesday), and to last until Saturday.
“The main thing is for motorists to give themselves plenty of time if they have to undertake a journey. Slow down and don’t rush,” according to Hesse. "Drivers should also ensure they have adequate breakdown assistance cover. Check your insurance policy to see exactly what you are covered for.”
Ten Top Tips
1. Slow down! Leave earlier for work or school. That extra ten or fifteen minutes can make all the difference.
2. Don’t make sudden manoeuvres. Be gentle with braking, accelerating and steering.
3. Leave extra distance between you and the vehicle in front, in case of sudden braking.
4. Have snow tyres fitted. They are not just for snow, they are effective once the temperatures fall below seven degrees.
5. Be prepared for delays. Keep the fuel tank topped up.
6. Make sure you have your vehicle serviced, that the anti-freeze is topped up, and the battery is in good condition.
7. Keep a warm jacket and a blanket in the car.
8. Make sure you have jump leads and other essentials in your boot in case of a breakdown including a high visibility vest, boots/wellingtons, de-icing equipment and a hazard warning triangle.
9. Check that your spare wheel is in good condition and is fully inflated. Some cars may have an inflation repair kit instead of a spare wheel so make sure that you know how to use it.
10. Ensure you have adequate breakdown cover. Allianz Global Assistance Ireland is now offering breakdown assistance through its website www.Allianz-Assistance.ie