Our Guide to Safe Winter Driving

Winter driving is arguably the most dangerous time of year for motorists. The cold and icy weather leads to an increase in accidents and fatalities.

However, a prepared driver is a safe driver, so we’ve collected some of the best tips, techniques and methods to keep you safe during the uglier months.

Preparation

Taking the right steps before the bad weather arrives prevents you getting caught out when it eventually does. Before the icy season begins, stock your car with anti-freeze and an ice-scraper at the very least, and always make sure all windows and mirrors are clear before driving. In addition, you should:

  • Top up your engine oil and brake fluid levels if necessary.
  • Check your lights are all working and replace any bulbs.
  • Check your tyres are okay and don’t forget to check the spare. Placing a footpump in the boot can save you hassle if you start to lose air in a tyre.
  • Check the brakes are working well before embarking on any trip.

Emergency kit

Because of the poor weather, you may find yourself stranded or awaiting recovery for longer if your car comes off the road or breaks down. You should pack the following items in your boot to help cope with emergencies:

  • Small shovel
  • Spare warm clothing
  • First aid kit
  • Car blanket
  • Small torch
  • Emergency rations if embarking on a long trip

Tips for winter driving

If you encounter snow or ice while driving, bear the following tips in mind:

  • Slow down – your speed will directly affect your stopping distance and chance of skidding.
  • Don’t travel at the speed limit. Because of the stopping distance in snow or ice, you should be travelling slowly.
  • Avoid harsh braking or acceleration – come to a smooth stop so you don’t slide.
  • Braking on a bend is dangerous as you may lose control of the car. Reduce your speed well ahead of a bend.
  • Use engine braking by reducing gears to help slow you down without using the brakes too heavily.
  • Leave up to 10x the distance you’d usually keep between yourself and the car in front when the weather is poor.
  • Use dipped headlights when visibility is reduced.
  • Aside from ice and snow, avoid any deep water pooling on the road and slow down when driving over surface water to avoid aquaplaning.
  • If you find yourself stuck in snow, do not rev in a low gear as this will worsen the situation. Instead, switch to a higher gear and move the car back and forwards to edge out.
  • If you’re caught in a snow drift, do not leave the engine on to keep warm. This can be extremely dangerous. Turn it off, call emergency services and let help come to you.