Winter driving tips

The nights might be drawing out, but the cold weather could be with us for a while longer. So check out our top tips for staying safe on the road.

Winter driving tips

February, 2020

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Before you leave

Before you leave
  • Check all lights are clean and working properly.
  • Make sure windscreen wipers are in good condition.
  • Examine your tyre tread and check pressures all round.
  • Top up screenwash – a stronger solution is advisable in cold weather.
  • Pack spare clothing or a blanket in case of emergency.
  • If heavy snow is forecast, try to postpone your trip.

Driving in snow

Driving in snow
  • Clear snow from all windows – not just your windscreen. And brush it off the roof too, because snow dislodging at speed can be highly dangerous.
  • If there’s snow on the ground, you should take great care to avoid skidding. When moving off from a standing start, pull away gently in second gear. If you drive an automatic with winter setting, select “W” mode.
  • When driving in traffic, leave a large gap between you and the car in front.
  • Try to stick to main roads which are more likely to have been gritted.
  • Avoid driving in wheel-tracks as compressed snow is more slippery than fresh snow.
  • Don’t brake hard. Take everything a lot slower and change gears as smoothly as you can.

Driving on ice

Driving on ice
  • If you know it’s going to be an icy morning, put a windscreen cover over your car the evening before.
  • Get up ten minutes earlier so you have more time to de-ice your car.
  • Never pour hot water onto your windscreen as it could crack.
  • Have a scraper and de-icer spray handy for clearing all windows, wing mirrors and lights.
  • It’s illegal and dangerous to pull away unless the windscreen is completely clear, so double check this before driving.
  • If your car starts to skid, don’t panic and hit the brakes. Calmly take your foot off the accelerator and turn your car into the direction of the skid. Once the car straightens, steer along the road.
  • When driving downhill, opt for third or fourth gear to reduce the chance of skidding.

Driving in fog

Driving in fog
  • If you can’t see further than 100m (about the length of a football pitch) switch on your dipped headlights – automatic headlights might not work in foggy conditions, so don’t rely on them.
  • Although fog lights aren’t obligatory, it makes sense to switch them on if visibility is reduced.
  • Fog can appear quickly and visibility can deteriorate in seconds, so watch your speed. Driving slowly will give you more time to react to hazards.
  • If you come to a busy junction and can’t see a safe distance, unwind your window and listen for oncoming traffic.
  • In foggy conditions the inside of your car can steam up, so turn on the air-conditioning to take the moisture out of the air, or blast the windscreen with hot air.

What to do if you break down

What to do if you break down
  • If you break down on the motorway, pull onto the hard shoulder or into an emergency refuge area. Get out of the car on the left-hand side and stand behind the metal barrier. Use blankets and extra clothes to stay warm.
  • If you’re not on the motorway, stay in the car where it’s warmer. If you’ve got plenty of fuel, run the car for 15 minutes every hour until help arrives. It’s a good idea to avoid leaving interior lights or the radio switched on, as this will drain the car battery.
  • Call your breakdown recovery service for emergency assistance.
  • If it’s really cold, don’t try to dig your car out of the snow. You’ll stay warm and build up a sweat while you’re digging, but once you get back in the car, your body temperature will drop because you’ll be wet.

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