Tips for Driving in Snowy or Icy Conditions

Here are a few tips for preparing for and taking journeys in wintry conditions in the safest way possible.

1. Is my journey necessary?

Major routes are often cleared and salted when snow and ice are predicted but more rural or minor roads are not. So you should really only travel if you believe your routes will be clear and safe. If you do travel, then consider whether your journey home is likely to be affected even if you manage your outward journey safely.

2. Check your route:

use Google maps and your local radio stations to keep abreast of current road conditions and leave extra time so that you remove the pressure of time demands.

3. Do the following before beginning your journey:

Comfortable, dry footwear

De-ice and demist all your windows and mirrors completely and ensure both your front and back numberplates are clean and clearly visible.

Remove any snow from the roof of your car to avoid it blowing off the back or sliding down your windscreen when braking quickly

Ensure your tyres have a tread of AT LEAST 1.6mm, but ideally 2.2mm in snowy conditions

Lastly, check you have plenty of washer fluid in the reservoir and that your windscreen wipers are moving freely and working correctly

4. Carry these essentials in snowy or icy weather in case of emergencies:

• Ice scraper and de-icer

• Extra screen wash

• Torch

• First aid kit

• Warm clothes and boots

• Blanket

• Food and drink

• Shovel

• Hi-vis jacket and reflective triangle

• Phone charger

• Map

• Empty fuel can

• Jump leads

• Tow rope

• Sunglasses to reduce the glare of low winter sun reflecting off the snow

5. In heavy snow use dipped beams and only use your fog light when you can’t clearly see objects 100m. Remember to take it back off as soon as the fog clears!

6. Take it easy. Accelerate and brake smoothly and gently. Avoid using cruise controls in snowy conditions as you need full control of your car at all times. If your car has different driving modes, go for ‘snow’, ‘off-road’, or ‘all-wheel’. If not, go for ‘eco’ mode as this will make acceleration smoother.

7. Allow for increased stopping distances in snowy and icy conditions and go for up to 10 times what you’d normally leave between you and the car in front.

8. Reduce your speed allowing for untreated surfaces and compacted snow. Driving on fresh snow may be safer than following the wheel tracks of previous vehicles.

9. Prepare for bends and hills. For bends decrease your speed so that your wheels don’t have to deal with slowing and changing direction at the same time. Choose a low gear when coming downhill so the brakes don’t have to work extra hard and leave plenty of space. Leaving space also helps when going uphill as it will allow you to maintain a constant speed.

10. Last of all, if you do happen to hit some ice and begin to skid, try not to panic, do NOT hit the brakes, but instead gently steer into the skid.

Photo by Magda Ehlers