Guide to winter driving
Winter driving can be a challenging and concerning prospect for drivers, particularly when the weather is extreme. Individually, snow, ice, rain and wind pose a great deal of risk for drivers, but in the winter, when all these elements combine, the risk of being involved in an accident no longer seems distant.
Severe weather can pose risks and hazards that could force you to postpone or re-route your journey, in which case you should take heed of any warnings from official sources and consult your fleet manager.
In this guide we take a look at how to prepare for winter driving and outline what to do when faced with various adverse weather conditions. Remember to drive safe and be on high alert.
Before you set off
- Check the local traffic news and weather forecast, and pay attention to any weather warnings that may affect your route. Weather conditions can change rapidly, so check the forecast at regular intervals.
- If driving conditions are set to be extreme, consider whether your journey is absolutely necessary. If it isn’t, you’re probably better off staying put.
- Give yourself options by planning alternative routes, such as ones that don’t involve steep hill climbs.
- Bring a fully charged mobile phone and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get there. This way they can raise the alarm if you fail to show up.
- Bring along a first aid kit, a torch, a shovel, jump leads, additional warm clothing, sturdy footwear, a few energy bars and a warm drink – just in case you get stuck or break down.
- Pack an ice scraper, a de-icer kit and a high-visibility jacket.
Preparing your vehicle
- It’s essential that you clear snow, ice and mist from your windows and mirrors so that your vision isn’t impaired. Your windscreen should be completely clear.
- Your lights and number plates must be clean and legible.
- Remove any snow from your vehicle that could fall off and obstruct other motorists.
- Check your windscreen wipers are working.
- Check your tyres are correctly inflated. Read our blog on tyres to find out more.
- Ensure your fuel tank is kept near to full.
Snow and ice: Driving tips
- Drive slowly and in a high gear, and accelerate and brake as gently as possible.
- Make sure you brake progressively before reaching a bend. Drive very slowly around bends and keep your steering smooth.
- Stopping distances on icy roads can be up to ten times longer than on dry roads, so try to maintain a ten-second gap between you and the vehicle in front.
- Use dipped headlights if visibility is reduced.
Heavy rain: Driving tips
- Stopping distances are at least twice as long on wet roads as they are on dry roads, so give yourself a four-second gap between you and the vehicle in front.
- Drive as smoothly as possible and anticipate your moves in advance.
- Use windscreen wipers and dipped headlights.
- Keep an eye out for larger vehicles creating spray that may reduce your visibility.
- Don’t drive through deep or moving water.
- If you have to drive through floodwater, do so slowly and try to stick to the most elevated part of the road.
For more information about driving in rain, read our guide to driving in bad weather.
High winds: Driving tips
- Strong wind affects high-sided vehicles in particular, but can be equally hazardous for cars, vans and motorcycles. Beware of turbulence caused by larger vehicles
- Crosswinds are most common on open stretches of road, so pay very close attention under these circumstances
- Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to high winds, so give them a wide berth
For more information about driving in high winds, read our guide to driving in bad weather.
Low sunshine: Driving tips
- If the glare of sunlight is impairing your view, slow down.
- Keep the inside and outside of your windscreen free of grease to reduce the effect of glare.
- Sunglasses can help, but take them off as soon as the sun is gone as they can significantly reduce your vision.