Advice on staying safe and secure in cold weather

As temperatures are set to drop dramatically this weekend, with snow and ice forecast, expert advice is being given on staying safe and secure.

Mike McGrail, senior product manager at Swinton Group, said: “Sussex is set to suffer from freezing temperatures this weekend which is likely to lead to difficulty on the roads.

“If you’re out and about remember that harsh weather conditions can make even the easiest of journeys more risky than usual.

“Small changes in preparation before you set off, as well as minor adjustments to your driving techniques, can make the process easier, and a lot less dangerous in the long run. From ensuring your car is properly de-frosted, to increasing the gaps in between you and other vehicles by up to ten times the normal distance, there are a series of top tips we’d recommend drivers follow.

“We’re also encouraging local residents to double check their insurance policies are accurate so they offer sufficient cover when it comes to incidents involving snow, ice and storms. Whether they are a Swinton customer or not, we are on hand to offer guidance on the insurance claims process and help in understanding the terms of their policies.”

Top tips from Mike:

- It can be frustrating waiting for the car to defrost, but you must avoid breathing on the locks or pouring hot water on your windscreen to speed up the process - the moisture from your breath could condense and make the problem a lot worse than it already is. Extreme changes in temperature from hot water could also easily crack the glass on your windscreen. Stick to specific lock and windscreen de-icer sprays to be safe.

- Remember to increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front in slippery, snowy conditions – you may need up to ten times the normal distance to stop – and keep your speed steady, especially when you see congestion ahead. To slow down without locking your wheels, first drop down to a lower gear than usual, let your speed fall, then gently apply the brakes.

- Try to pull away in second gear instead of first and it’s best to select ‘2’ if you’re driving an automatic – this will limit gear changes and makes you rely less on the brakes. We all know braking leads to skidding.

- As obvious as it may sound, considering an alternative route could be the difference between getting yourself stranded or enjoying a smooth, if slightly longer, journey than usual. Before setting off, think about whether you can stick to the main roads for your drive - they are much more likely to be gritted.

- You wouldn’t think fashion comes into this, but you need to consider what you’re wearing and the effect it may have on your driving. Don’t be tempted to wear thick gloves as this will reduce how you feel the car moving beneath you and make sure you take your hat off if it’s covering your ears – you need to hear what’s going on around you when the weather is bad. It’s also worth carrying some warm clothes with you too, in case of a breakdown.

- Park your car in a garage to reduce the risk of loose flying objects damaging the vehicle. If this isn’t possible, make sure that it is parked away from large trees.

Preventing damage to the home:

- Freezing temperatures with stormy and snowy conditions are expected to strike West Sussex this week, and although these can come and go quickly, the damage caused can be a disruptive and take a long time to repair. It can also be incredibly costly - the Association of British Insurers (ABI) estimated that the cost to insurers of storm and flood damage caused in the winter of 2015/6 would top £1.3bn.

- Mike McGrail, senior product manager at Swinton Group, has shared his top tips for minimising damage to the home in harsh weather conditions: “Make sure that all fixtures and loose objects around your house and garden are either stored in a safe place, such as a shed or garage, or securely fastened down. Objects such as fence panels and garden ornaments normally aren’t covered by insurance policies and can easily come loose in a storm.

- Close and fasten doors and windows. High winds can cause serious damage to frames and panels so ensuring they are secure is essential.

- Take care to clear gutters etc. of blockages and fallen leaves to ensure that rainwater and melted snow has somewhere to drain and isn’t likely to build up and cause further damage.

- Heavy rain or snow may cause flash flooding or cause rivers to burst their banks. If this were to happen, use sandbags to block potential water entry points like doors on the ground floor and garden gates. You can usually obtain these from your local authority but be aware there may be a charge.

Ensure that your insurance documentation is somewhere safe and easily accessible. This may require making a digital copy or passing it to a friend or neighbour. Many insurance providers have online portals where you can access your insurance documents by logging into your account.