A Guide to Driving in Snow

Top Tips

What You Need to Know

  1. Being well-prepared is the best way to keep yourself safe on the road in snowy conditions.
  2. Checking that tyres are in a good condition and are properly inflated can potentially be a lifesaver in tough conditions.
  3. Also, consider investing in idea investing in a set of specialist winter tyres, particularly if you tend to drive long distances over the winter months and especially if you drive on rural roads.
  4. Other good ways of staying safe on the roads over winter include ensuring that brake lights and indicators even on new cars are working properly before setting off on a journey.
  5. No matter the condition of your car, you should also pack a ‘snow kit’ in case you get stuck. This should include a shove, warm clothing and food and water.
  6. If you do get stuck in snow, make sure your car’s exhaust pipe is not blocked before you run the engine to keep warm.
  7. Brake, steer and accelerate as smoothly as possible. Avoid accelerating quickly as you will just get into a wheelspin, and take care not to slam on the brakes since this may cause you to skid.

Snow-Proof Your Car

Though drivers need to take extra care once behind the wheel, it is what is done before a journey starts that is often the key to staying safe and on the move over the worst of the winter months.

As with driving at any time of the year, preparing a car, regardless of its age or condition, is crucial.

For example, checking that tyres are in a good condition and are properly inflated can potentially be a lifesaver in tough conditions. While winter tyres are not legally compulsory in the UK – though they are in several other European countries – it’s still a good idea investing in a set, particularly if you tend to drive long distances over the winter months and especially if you drive on rural roads. All major manufacturers offer special winter tyres, as do most garages and car dealerships, though be sure to inform your insurer if you do decide to fit them as it can effect your car insurance.

Other good ways of staying safe on the roads over winter include ensuring that brake lights and indicators even on new cars are working properly before setting off on a journey. Furthermore, it is also advisable to check that windscreen washers are not blocked and that antifreeze is added to any screen washer bottles, while packing extra clothing and hot drinks can also be wise if there is even the slightest risk of getting stuck in the snow.

Meanwhile, you should also check that you have plenty of fuel in your tank, even if you are just setting off for a short journey. If the worst happens and you get stuck in the snow, being able to keep your engine running can help keep you warm – and safe. Note, however, that if you do get stuck in snow, make sure your car’s exhaust pipe is not blocked before you run the engine to keep warm.

Prepare for the Worst

Even if you’ve given your car a thorough once-over and fitted special winter tyres, it’s still a good idea to prepare for the worst. After all, snow storms can often appear out of nowhere, potentially leaving you trapped and vulnerable for hours. For your own peace of mind, you should carry an emergency kit in your car, which ought to include an ice scraper and de-icer, a torch and spare batteries, warm clothes and a blanket, boots, a first aid kit, food and water, a shovel, a reflective warning sign and sunglasses.

Drive Carefully

It should go without saying that you should adjust your driving habits, above all by slowing down and adopting a more cautious approach on the roads over the winter months, yet the fact remains that most accidents at this time of the year are down to motorists going too fast and losing control of their vehicles in tough conditions.

Above all, the Institute of Advance Motorists (IAM) reports, driving too close to the car in front and thereby not having sufficient space to stop on a slippery surface remains the number one cause of wintertime mishaps. So, as well as slowing down and leaving plenty of space behind the car in front, it’s a good idea to plan your journey in advance, taking any possible weather-related delays into account, so that you don’t feel the need to put your foot on the accelerator. At the same time, however, over-cautious drivers can also be something of a menace on British roads in the winter.

While it is understandable that they want to stay safe, such slow-coaches can not only hold up their fellow road users, causing tailbacks for several hundred metres, but they can also find themselves in trouble as they lack the momentum needed to climb slippery hills, with stalling or even backward-sliding cars causing numerous bumps and much inconvenience. So, find the right balance between being a safe motorist and being overly-cautious and always remember the importance of planning a trip before you get behind the wheel.

Top Driving Tips

As well as keeping your speed to a sensible level, there are also a number of other ways you can stay in control of your car while the roads are covered in snow. These include:

  • Brake, steer and accelerate as smoothly as possible. Avoid accelerating quickly as you will just get into a wheelspin, and take care not to slam on the brakes since this may cause you to skid.
  • Use a higher gear than you would normally. This will give you better control of the car.
  • Stay in the clearest lane where possible, taking care to avoid slush and ice.
  • Switch to dipped headlights or fog lights. This will help ensure that other road users and pedestrians are able to see you, even when it is snowing heavily.

Improve Your Winter Driving Skills

Aside from such common sense tactics, you may also want to consider further increasing your chances of staying safe in inclement weather by going that extra mile and investing in an advanced driving course.

Advanced motoring courses, for instance, can teach otherwise-nervous drivers how to cope with skids or any other type of loss of control of a vehicle, while technology such as electronic stability control (ESC) or traction control can more than pay for themselves after just one harsh winter, even if it's only through boosting a motorist's confidence.

Further Reading

 

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