Driving in snow and ice

Driving in winter is a challenge for even the most experienced of drivers. Here are a few tips to help you out.

Preparation is key. Here’s what to do before you set off

  1. Allow extra time for journeys
  2. Keep at least a quarter tank of fuel at all times in case of an unexpected delay
  3. Clear all windows with a scraper / de-icer

Setting off

  1. Make sure your footwear is comfortable and dry
  2. Pull away in second gear. This will help to reduce wheel spin
  3. Accelerate gently and change up to a higher gear as soon as possible

How to drive

  1. Maintain and keep a safe speed, giving you a clear and safe stopping distance. Remember, this is 10 times greater than normal
  2. If the road has not been gritted, avoid driving in the tracks of other vehicles. The squashed snow is more likely to be icy than fresh snow
  3. Use all controls smoothly and slowly, especially steering, braking and accelerating
  4. If you need to go uphill, leave plenty of room and find a consistent speed so you don’t need to change gear
  5. If you need to go downhill, use a low gear and try to avoid using the brakes. Remember to leave plenty of space between you and the car in front

Using the correct lights

  1. When driving in heavy snow, use your dipped headlights
  2. If visibility drops below 100m, use your fog lights

What to do if it goes wrong

  1. If you do find that you have lost control of your steering, keep calm and steer gently into it. For example, if you’re skidding and the back end of your car is coming out to the left, then steer to the left slowly. Keep your hands on the wheel and do not press the brakes
  2. When you approach a bend, brake before you start to turn the wheel. If you do find that your car has lost grip, don’t worry. The best way to get out of it is to take your foot off of the accelerator and make sure your wheels are pointing in the direction you want to go in
  3. If your car does get stuck in the snow, straighten the wheels and clear the snow from under them. Use some material (an old rug, sheet or sack) under the driving wheels to give you some grip to get you going

Whilst there are lots of tips that will help with winter driving, the main one is to be prepared. You cannot drive as you would on a summer’s day in the snow and ice. Stay alert and ready to react to what may happen.