Before you set off:
- Check the weather in advance – don’t ignore police warnings about closed
roads or advice not to travel on specific routes.
- Can you avoid the journey ? If you do not have to go, then stay in.
- Allow extra time to prepare your car for the journey.
- Always clear your windows, lights and mirrors. Do not forget that snow on
the bonnet can blow onto your windscreen, so clear that off and clear the roof,
to avoid snow being blown back onto traffic following you before you start your
- Make sure you have an emergency kit so you are prepared in the event of a
breakdown. This should include : a torch, food for energy, water and a blanket.
For snow you also need a shovel with you. On longer journeys always let someone
know you have set off and tell them your planned route.
- Ensure your mobile is charged up so you can make a call in an emergency –
but don’t use it when driving!
- Do a proper winter check of your vehicle, looking at washer fluid, de-icer/scraper and tyres.
- Remember, if you have less than 3mm of tread on your tyres they will be less effective in bad weather conditions.
- If you leave the car engine running to help de-ice windows before you start
the journey, make sure that there is someone with the car – a cold thief may see
a warm opportunity, and some insurers may not pay out in those circumstances.
If you have to make the journey then a little preparation can save you a lot of trouble.
Once you’re on the
- When driving in snow, get your speed right - not too fast so that you risk
losing control, but not so slow that you risk losing momentum when you need it –
and brake, steer and accelerate as smoothly as possible.
- Start gently from stationary, avoiding high revs. If you get yourself into a
skid the main thing to remember is to take your foot off the pedals and steer.
- Only use the brake if you can not steer out of trouble.
- It is better to think ahead as you drive to keep moving, even if it is at
- Double or even triple your normal stopping distance from the vehicle in
front. Drive so that you do not rely on your brakes to be able to stop – on an
icy surface they simply may not do that for you!
- If your vehicle has ABS in very slippery conditions it will not give you the
same control it would in others. Do not rely on it. Traction control and other
electronic systems (ESC) can really help – but they can not overcome the laws of
physics, so do not rely on them, use common sense.
- Plan your journey around busier roads as they are more likely to have been
gritted. Avoid using short cuts on minor roads – they are less likely to be
cleared or treated with salt, especially country lanes.
- On motorways stay in the clearest lane where possible, away from slush and
ice. Keep within the clear tyre tracks if you can.
- Stay in a higher gear for better control, and if it is slippery, in a manual
car move off in a higher gear, rather than just using first.
- Bends are a particular problem in slippery conditions – slow down before you
get to the bend, so that by the time you turn the steering wheel you have
already lost enough speed.
- On a downhill slope get your speed low before you start the descent, and do
not let it build up – it is much easier to keep it low than to try and slow down
once things get slippery.
- In falling snow use dipped headlights or foglights to make yourself visible
to others (especially pedestrians) – but as conditions improve make sure your
foglights are only on if necessary as they can dazzle other drivers.
- If you are following another vehicle at night, using their lights to see
ahead can cause you to drive dangerously close – keep well back from other
- Having windscreen wipers working for a lengthy time with snow falling can be
mesmeric and quite a strain – be prepared to stop and give your eyes a rest, but
choose the right place to do it!
Things to look out
- Trucks can have large amounts of snow or ice on top that must come off
sometime – be prepared for it to blow off on to your windscreen.
- Black ice forms in shaded spots and areas exposed to cold winds. Bridges
are particularly prone to ice over first and thaw last.
- Approaches to junctions are usually more slippery, where the surface has
been worn smooth by drivers constantly braking and trying to accelerate
- Fresh snow can have frozen ice underneath it. If it has fallen on dry clear
ground the fresh, virgin snow will have a little more grip than where it has
been compacted by other traffic. If it has fallen on top of old snow be aware
that you may actually be driving on wet ice.
- As snow or ice melts they can leave a very slippery layer – slush is slippery
- Keep track of where you are. If you need to call for assistance, you need
to be able to tell the breakdown or emergency services your location, so they
can find you.
- If you must leave your vehicle to telephone for assistance, find a safe
place to stand away from the traffic flow. If you have just lost control the
next driver can do the same in the same place.
- On Motorways and dual carriageways it is usually better to leave your
vehicle and stand a short distance behind and to the safe side of it. Do not
stand in front of it if at all possible. Balancing the risks of the car being
crashed into and hypothermia is something that depends on your
We at HKF are strong believers in using winter or all weather tyres on vehicles as they really help to keep you safe during the winter months, we always fit them to our vehicles in the winter, if you have never experienced the difference these tyres can make or maybe you are just unsure of how to drive safely in bad conditions why not book a winter weather driving lesson with us and take another step forward to becoming an advanced driver