“Driving home for Christmas, oh I can’t wait to see those faces…”
Whether you’re channeling your inner Chris Rea over the festive period or traversing the motorways for work, the winter weather can make a journey extremely difficult this time of year with its many challenges.
Driving in snowy conditions can easily lead to an accident, and you must take the correct steps and considerations to keep safe on the roads.
Before you sit behind the wheel this winter season, take a look at our top winter driving tips on how to drive in the snow.
Preparing for your winter journey
Before setting off on your journey, take a backseat first and consider the following actions you may need to take to make your drive a lot easier.
Plan your journey ahead of time
Planning the way to your destination will avoid any issues down the road. Using a Sat Nav to discover the best route will make your journey a lot smoother and will help avoid any closed roads, longer routes, or traffic congestion.
Observe your fuel levels
Check that your vehicle has enough fuel before you drive, this will avoid having to divert from your route and heading down unknown or potentially difficult roads.
Be prepared and carry a winter breakdown kit
It’s worthwhile preparing an emergency breakdown kit in case of any mechanical issues. Packing the following items will ensure that you’ll be ready for any situation when on the move:
- Wind-up torch
- Ice scraper and de-icer
- Food and bottled water
- Fuel can
- First aid kit
- Phone charger
- Hi-vis vest
- Jump leads
- A warning triangle
Check the weather forecast
Make sure to consider the forecast when planning your journey, snowfall or ice will slow down your travel time. Setting off in good time will mean less stress and allow you to take to the roads at a steady pace.
Get the de-icer out
Did you know that it’s against the highway code to drive with snow on your roof? You must remove all snow from the roof as it could fall into the path of road users, creating a potential hazard.
De-ice your windscreen and wait for any condensation on the windows to disappear. Driving without full visibility is illegal and could land you some penalty points and an unwanted fine. Worst case scenario, not being able to see clearly could lead to a dangerous accident on the road.
It’s also a good idea to check that your windscreen wipers haven’t frozen to your windscreen as this can damage the rubber on your vehicle's wipers, or even blow the control fuse if they’re switched on when frozen.
Ensure that you have enough windscreen solution too, as this will be vital in tackling the snow and dirt that may accumulate on your windscreen during travel, particularly on motorways.
Carry out some necessary vehicle checks
Your tyres will need to be in good condition, as worn tyres will not grip the road if it’s covered in snow. Tyres with a deeper tread will help if you’re driving in an area with a lot of snow, or you can use snow chains to give you some extra stability.
The legal limit for tread depth is at least 1.6mm, and it’s advised that 3mm will greatly increase traction when driving in the snow.
It’s also best to avoid letting air out of your tyres. Reducing your tyre pressure won’t help your grip in wintery conditions as most tyres are designed to work best at their specific pressure.
Read more about how to check your tires are in a road worthy condition.
Don’t forget to check your brakes before your drive. If your brakes are squealing, feeling strange, or your vehicle is pulling to one side, it may be a sign that your brake pads need re-placing. Driving in the snow is hard enough, so don’t let your brakes increase that difficulty.
Lastly, be sure to check that the lights on your vehicle are working, as it’s not always immediately obvious if one of your lights is out. They’re vital for signaling to other drivers when turning, reversing, or braking , allowing others to see you in the dark or adverse conditions.
For more information on vehicle checks you should consider, take a look at our Important vehicle safety checks blog post.
Driving in the snow advice
Now that you’ve prepared for the journey ahead, you also need to be mindful of the following tips when driving in the snow.
Get in the right gear
What gear is right when driving in the snow? Starting your vehicle in second gear will reduce wheel spin, and quickly working your way to a higher gear is the best way to drive in the snow.
If you’re driving an automatic vehicle, you may have a winter mode which will be stated in your vehicle’s manual.
Maintain a safe stopping distance
When driving in snow, remember not to drive too quickly and maintain a safe stopping distance between yourself and other vehicles. In snowy conditions, it’s normally advised to leave as much as ten times the normal distance to remain safe on the roads.
Using any of your vehicle controls, such as braking, steering and accelerating, should be done gently with plenty of time to avoid unnecessary skidding when driving.
When driving in snow at night, it’s best to drive slower than normal which will help with the reduced traction on the road.
If you need to drive uphill, ensure that you leave plenty of room ahead of you so that you can maintain a constant speed. Having to slow down whilst driving uphill, especially in icy conditions, will make it difficult to get to the top.
When going downhill, use a low gear and try to avoid braking unless it’s necessary, leaving plenty of space between yourself and other cars on the road.
When slowing down, start to reduce your speed in plenty of time before your destination and work your way through the gears to a gradual stop.
Make sure you’re visible on the roads
In heavy snowfall, ensuring that you are visible to other drivers is important. Don’t forget to use your fog light or headlights if needed, and remember to switch these off once they’re no longer needed.
If you do have to drive at night, check out our top tips when driving in the dark here.
In the daytime, the mix of winter weather and sunlight can cause glare, so keep a pair of sunglasses handy if you’re having a hard time seeing what’s ahead of you.
If you’re driving home for Christmas, make sure to take it steady on the roads. If your still working over the festive period, our chevrons are designed to provide clear visibility over a long distance when stopping on the motorway.