skip to main content

Winter Driving

Monday, 13th December 2010

Winter - Respect the elements

  • Weather during Winter is unpredictable. Bad weather can strike suddenly, so the best advice when severe weather hits is to stay off the road. If you must drive, make sure you are prepared for the conditions.
  • Plan your journey
  • Give yourself more time to negotiate your journey

During wintry weather conditions

  • Ask yourself - is your journey absolutely essential?
  • Check the local and national weather forecasts.
  • Listen to local and national radio for travel information.
  • Tell someone at your destination what time you expect to arrive.
  • Make sure you are equipped with warm clothes, food, boots and a torch. In snowy conditions, take a spade.
  • Clear your windows and mirrors before you set out and carry a screen scraper and de-icer.

If you get into trouble…

  • Do not use a mobile phone while driving. Stop somewhere safe or ask a passenger to make the call.
  • On a motorway, it is best to use a roadside emergency telephone, because the breakdown/emergency services will be able to locate you easily. If you have to use a mobile phone, make sure you know your location from the numbers on the marker posts on the side of the hard shoulder.
  • Abandoned vehicles can hold up rescue vehicles and snow-ploughs. To ensure that the road is cleared as quickly as possible, stay with your vehicle, but not necessarily in it, until help arrives.
  • If you have to leave your vehicle to get help, make sure other drivers can see you

Vehicle condition

In winter it is even more important to check you vehicle is well maintained and serviced
  • Keep the lights, windows and mirrors clean and free from ice and snow.
  • Keep your battery fully charged.
  • Add anti-freeze to the radiator and winter additive to the windscreen washer bottles.
  • Make sure wipers and lights are in good working order.
  • Check that tyres have plenty of tread depth and are maintained at the correct pressure.

Adjust your driving to the conditions

  • Hail, heavy snow and rain reduce visibility. Not just for you but for other road users also, be aware of their limitations.
  • Use dipped headlights and reduce your speed.

When roads are icy or slushy

  • It can take ten times longer to stop in icy conditions than on a dry road. Drive slowly, allowing extra room to slow down and stop.
  • Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin.
  • Maneuver gently, avoiding harsh braking and acceleration.
  • To brake on ice or snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use the brake pedal gently.
  • If you start to skid, ease off the accelerator but do not brake suddenly.

Watch out for fog

  • Watch out for fog - it drifts rapidly and is often patchy.
  • In foggy conditions, drive very slowly using dipped headlights.
  • Use fog-lights if visibility is seriously reduced, but remember to switch them off when visibility improves.
  • Don't hang on to the tail-lights of the vehicle in front. This gives you a false sense of security and means you may be driving too close.
  • Don't speed up suddenly, even if it seems to be clearing. You can suddenly find yourself back in thick fog.

Flooded Roads

  • Don't attempt to cross if the water seems too deep.
  • Drive slowly in first gear but keep the engine speed high by slipping the clutch - this will stop you from stalling.
  • Avoid the deepest water, usually near the kerb.
  • Remember - test your brakes when you are through the flood before you drive at normal speed.

Salting and snow ploughing

  • Salting vehicles travel at speeds of up to 40 mph spreading salt across all lanes of the carriageway. Drivers are advised to maintain a safe distance behind them. Do not attempt to overtake.
  • Snow ploughing can throw up irregular amounts of snow that may be a hazard to vehicles. Drivers are advised to maintain a safe distance behind vehicles and not to attempt to overtake.