Winter driving can be challenging and worrying for some drivers, particularly when the weather becomes more extreme. Snow, ice, rain, and wind can up the risks of an accident, but here are some tips to keep you safe over the wintery months.
Before you set off
- Check the local traffic news and weather forecast, pay attention to any weather warnings that may affect your route. Weather conditions can change rapidly, so check the forecast for your journey time.
- 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 hills.
- Fully charge your 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 a first aid kit (if you don’t already have one in the car), a torch, a shovel, jump leads or battery jump pack, 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 too.
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. Before you set off, your windscreen should be completely clear.
- Your lights and number plates must also be clean and legible.
- Remove any snow from your vehicle (like the roof) that could fall off and obstruct other motorists.
- Check that your windscreen wipers are working.
- Check that your tyres are correctly inflated.
- Ensure your fuel tank is nearly full.
Snow and ice: Driving tips
- Drive slowly and in a high gear, accelerate and brake as gently as possible.
- Make sure you brake progressively before reaching a corner. 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 on dry roads, so give yourself a four-second gap between you and the vehicle in front.
- Drive as smoothly as possible and anticipate the road ahead.
- 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 stick to the most elevated part of the road.
For more information about driving in the rain, please read our guide to driving in bad weather.
High winds: Driving tips
- Strong wind affects high-sided vehicles in particular, but it can be equally hazardous for cars, vans and motorcycles.
- Crosswinds are most common on open stretches of road and bridges.
- 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.