Reasons to be cheerful this winter (if you’re a driver)

So the short days, long nights and slippery roads are here. Malodorous for some but not if you’re a driver. Here’s why. 

I love driving in winter. I’ll happily admit that when the weather is at its worst, the roads at their trickiest I just get a tingle up my spine and a message in my brain that just says, “All right, lets give it a go”. Its that old caveman instinct of, ‘lets poke it with a stick’, that kicks in.

Its not just that however. Its the fact that with winter comes fewer people on the roads. People stay at home and watch TV so when you do find yourself on that road you like in a thunderstorm or fog, its normally empty. 

It also gives you a valuable platform to enhance your driving skill, not by driving like a lunatic but merely by focussing on the conditions you find yourself in. This means that when you drive in similar conditions in the future that you will be better prepared, its like training for an emergency that you hope will never happen.

Let me give you an example. In February London had a heavy snowfall and my road, that has a small gradient was less than safe. However even though I didn’t need to go out on the black ice I decided to ‘pick it with a stick’ anyway so I could learn about how my car reacted in such conditions. Even driving no more than 5mph was this an unnecessary risk? Maybe. But was it useful? Incredibly. Why? See below.

A few weeks later I set off to work at Goodwood Circuit to do some shift work. Setting off from Brighton, having stayed overnight with a friend, I made it to the A27 at 4:30 just after a heavy snowfall. The road was treacherous with black ice and no grip but I needed to get to work even if it meant my top speed was 30mph. 

Here’s where the ‘unnecessary’ outing suddenly became priceless. Since that half a mile drive up and down my road in terrible conditions a week or so earlier I knew what my car would do when I applied throttle and brake, when I changed gear on ice.

Also and this is the operative word, it was fun. I didn’t need to worry about other cars, other drivers. It was just me vs the weather and in my opinion that’s some of the best fun you can have all year.

So reasons to be cheerful? The roads are clear, you can learn about driving in tricky conditions and because of these things, you can have fun. What driving is all about in the first place.  

Photo credit: Autocar 13th April 2012

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