A Teacher’s Guide to Driving a Minibus in Wintery Conditions
You’ve filled in all the risk assessments, liaised with your contact at the destination, and made all the necessary preparations for your school trip. All that’s left to do is cross your fingers that everything goes according to plan.
But as every teacher knows all too well, that is never the case. If it’s not a student falling ill, an event being cancelled at the last minute, or suddenly realising you don’t meet the license requirements for the minibus, it’s the other most unpredictable, uncontrollable part of English life: the weather.
With all the recent severe and erratic conditions, you may be wondering if you should put any excursions on hold until it all passes. But even if you decide to do so, it’s worth getting familiar with the guidelines for driving in wintery conditions. That way, you’ll be prepared no matter what the weather throws at you.
General Winter driving tips
No matter if you’re driving a car or bus, there are a handful of general driving tips everyone should adhere to when driving in wintery conditions.
As outlined by the AAA, these tips include being well rested, never warming a vehicle up in an enclosed area, not using cruise control when driving on a slippery surface, making sure the tires are properly inflated, and keeping the fuel tank at least half full to avoid fuel line freeze-up. Many of these fall in the category of common sense, but the more technical ones require a little more care and attention. If you’re renting a minibus, your provider should ensure the vehicle is in full working order and advise you on how to best manage it in different weather conditions.
Driving in the snow
Just ten minutes of snowfall can change the rules of the road in an instant. Not only does the surface become sloppier and more difficult to drive on but, as visibility can drop, your ability to navigate and find your destination can quickly falter.
The first thing to keep in mind when driving in these conditions is that there’s no hurry — unnecessary haste and speed is what leads to accidents and causes vehicles to get stuck. As well as taking your time, the general rule is to use low revs, quickly move up to higher gears, and decelerate slowly.
This is particularly true when going up and down hills. If you apply lots of gas the wheels will start spinning, and so you want to use the inertia you have to get to the top and proceed down the other side as steadily as possible.
Another important note is that the standard recommended distance between vehicles of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten-seconds, especially when driving in fog or poor visibility. And finally, if the road has been gritted, make sure to look out for compressed snow from vehicle tracks as it’s more likely to be more slippy than fresh snow.
The above points cover the very basics of driving in winter conditions. However, if you are planning a school trip and the weather forecast looks dicey, remember it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you’re unsure, check the road safety website to see if routes are clear and safe for driving, and even take a test run out in the days preceding your trip.
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