Those hoping to visit a country that is known to be snowbound in winter, particularly if they are unfamiliar with such weather conditions, should pay as much attention to the state of the roads on which they will be travelling as to the rest of their itinerary.
If icy roads are generally experienced, then drivers would be well advised to familiarise themselves with the safety measures taken by the locals. Advice should also be sought from persons or groups who have experience with driving on slippery surfaces. If car rental is part of the holiday plan, then there are a number of factors to be considered regarding safety features and vehicle suitability.
Trading on Traction
It will come as a surprise to many that some of the most popular luxury performance vehicles put on a dismal show in extreme weather conditions. Cars that have rear wheel drive are notoriously unsuited to slippery road surfaces, so that this should be a primary consideration before deciding on a rental car. It is also essential that the vehicle is equipped with winter tyres, as the rubber compound used for summer tyres tends to harden in freezing temperatures, which causes them to lose much of their grip. Some countries have laws in existence that require tyres to be changed during the winter season. Tyre pressure is lessened in cold weather, as flatter tyres provide better grip. Other car safety features should also be present in countries where the danger of icy roads exists.
Reputable car rental companies, such as National Car Rental and Avis, who are committed to customer care and safety, will be happy to advise and assist in providing vehicles that are known for handling adverse road conditions best. They will also offer valuable information regarding typical local driving conditions and tips on when it is advisable to stay off the roads.
Some of the most dangerous driving conditions occur when icy rains are experienced. The thin layer of ice that can form is very difficult to distinguish from a wet road surface and drivers should exercise all due caution. Techniques on how to handle tough winter driving conditions can be found online, or tourists can attend advanced driving lessons, specifically intended to prepare them for adverse road conditions, prior to their trip. There are also a few general safety measures that can be taken in anticipation of a car becoming stuck in snow.
It is always advisable to carry a few packs of salt, cat litter or other traction aids in case this should be lost. Drivers should also maintain a sensible speed when driving in deeper snow to avoid any hidden obstacles such as rocks. Car rental companies may assist in recommending established routes, so that such known hazards may be avoided. Tourists will also want to avoid routes with steep inclines, as these require maximum traction to negotiate and this could pose serious problems should road conditions suddenly deteriorate.
Good common sense is the most valuable asset for dealing with icy roads. Responsible visitors to snowbound or icy countries will know when to surrender to nature and stay off the roads.