Tips for driving in snow and ice

If you have no choice but to drive in dangerous conditions we've got some hints and tips to make sure that you stay as safe as possible whilst driving in snowy and icy conditions.

Putting some thought into preparing your car for driving when it's icy or snowy is not just good sense, it could stop you from getting points on your licence, save your life and other people's lives.

Do you really need to?

Before you even start thinking about your car, check the Met Office: Cold Weather Watch which runs from 1st Nov - 31st March each year. If the warning level is yellow, amber or red you should think carefully about whether your journey is worth what might be a considerable risk.

If you're just popping out because you're running low on milk when there's three feet of snow on ungritted roads, taking an expensive tonne and a half of metal rolling on all weather tyres isn't going to be the most sensible thing you've ever done.

However, some journeys are vital so here are some hints and tips to help you get to your destination in one piece.

  • Give yourself plenty of extra time Check your route is clear before you set off by listening to radio traffic bulletins or TV updates. Highways Agency - Traffic Information is also a great resource for checking conditions on the roads. If you have to take a diversion due to snow drifts, frozen roads or accidents on your path you'll have given yourself time to follow an alternate route.
  • Prepare your car Make sure that you have de-icer, ice scrapers, jump leads (batteries run down quicker in colder temperatures), a shovel, a broom and some pieces of carpet to help your tyres gain some traction if you get stuck.
    It's a legal requirement that you clear ALL snow and ice from your windows and mirrors. It's also the law to clear your lights and number plate so that it's clearly visible and legible. 
    It's also important to remove all snow which may fall into the path of other road users - the snow on the roof of your car could come off in one go which could be extremely dangerous for pedestrians, motorcyclists, cyclists and even other drivers who are all struggling to cope with the conditions too. Having a few feet of snow suddenly fall on them or in their path could be fatal.
  • Prepare yourself Wear plenty of warm layers of clothing - you may have air conditioning in the car, but if you breakdown or are in an accident that warmth won't last long. Carry some food and a flask of warm drink as well as a torch and a mobile phone - although don't use this whilst driving. Let someone know when you're leaving and your proposed route.
  • Slow down It may sound obvious but taking the time to spot potential patches of ice or snow when driving can make all the difference. Lower speeds and higher gears will give your tyres a chance to get a better grip in corners and when braking. You'll also have more time to brake early and gently.
  • Give other road users extra space Stopping distances can be ten times that in dry conditions. Traction control and ABS may help but don't rely on them as road conditions can vary dramatically in relatively short distances.

Originally published on 10/02/2012.

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