Sulfur frost, black ice, freezing drizzle, constantly falling snow, snowdrifts, and slippery surface - these are just a few attractions that await us on the roads during the winter trip outside Hong Kong. Hong Kongers’ popular winter destinations are Korea, China, and Japan. In fact, just a few months ago, one Japanese rental car company recommended tourists not to rent a car from them from November until March if they’re not familiar with winter road conditions. They stated that there was up to a 30% increase in car accidents involving foreign tourists in Hokkaido alone during winter months.
Just in time to confirm the predictions, we heard of the recent news of a tragic collision of two Hong Kong citizens in snowy Hokkaido this Christmas Day. In light of the recent events, our team at Kwiksure decided to write a short guide on how to safely drive a car in winter and what to do in case of a car accident overseas.
Driving a car in winter: is the car winter ready?
For those planning to rent a car and drive on the winter roads abroad, it is worth learning or refreshing the essential elements of winter driving techniques to be prepared as much as possible for a difficult road situation. Start with checking if you have all the necessary international driving permits, essential to rent a car in the first place.
Before hitting the road with the rental car you should check if the rental car has basic winter equipment. Such a mandatory car accessory set contains, among others:
- winter tires,
- window scrapers,
- deblockers for locks and panes,
- snow scrapers,
- winter windscreen washer fluid,
- and even chains, if you are planning a trip to higher areas.
It is also worth checking the condition of the wipers because without their proper operation, driving in winter conditions will be practically impossible. Therefore, before even starting a car, make sure that the entire vehicle is free of snow and ice.
If you’re on a ski trip, make sure the car you are renting offers a rooftop cargo carrier to evenly distribute the weight. The more weight on your car, the longer your braking distance, so always keep that in mind.
Driving a car in winter: road behavior
The first and most important skill during winter driving is to maintain the right distance between cars. It is very important that you can safely brake.
The second basic issue is to maintain the optimal speed, which should be adapted to the driving conditions and of course your skills.
It is also important that, in cars equipped with modern security and traction systems such as ABS, drivers should not brake by pulsation, which means that they should not increase and decrease the pressure on the brake pedal. It's better to push the pedal to the board and wait.
When driving on a snowy road, always look ahead. Careful observation of the way and incoming obstacles such as a sharp bend will allow you to prepare for them properly.
Remember also to make road maneuvers smoothly and don’t push the gas too much, because you can skid. Watch out at intersections, where other drivers join traffic because in such places it is easy to get into an accident.
Driving a car in winter: an accident
When renting a car overseas, you will be asked by the rental company if you’d like to purchase certain car rental insurance options. Some of these might be necessary, but some options might be already included in your travel or international health policy.
But what if, even after you check the car, and use all of the precautions, you still get involved in a car accident abroad in a rental car?
The first and the most important thing is to always check if anybody needs medical help. If so, contact an ambulance/ hospital and arrange for them to be taken to the hospital. The crucial part here is to always check if your travel insurance covers you in case of a road accident, as this is a common exclusion.
The same rule applies to the third-party liability coverage in the travel policy. Our advice is to customize your travel insurance plan, so it protects you in all the ways necessary while you are renting a car abroad.
Finally, if you have any more questions, or would like to talk to an expert about your insurance options, contact the insurance team at Kwiksure today!