Winter driving tips: How to cope with ice and snow

Even the most experienced drivers can find the roads tricky to navigate in the winter. Any combination of snow, ice, freezing fog or low sun can make routine trips more difficult. To stay safe on the roads during winter, here are some useful tips to follow.

Keep a safe distance

When driving in snow and ice, you should keep further back from the car in front of you than you would normally do. Braking distances in this type of weather are much greater than at other times of the year, and there is a greater risk of slipping and sliding. If you have to stop suddenly when driving in snow and ice, you must make sure there is enough space between you and the car in front to avoid a collision.

Drive in a higher gear

You will be able to maintain greater control of your vehicle if you drive in a higher gear. This also goes for starting. Sometimes, driving off in snow and ice when being difficult. Normally, you would put your vehicle into first gear to start, but you can try setting off in second gear to get it under control if that is proving tricky.

Be prepared

Even on a fine winter’s day, you can get caught out. Fog can descend quite quickly, and when temperatures plummet when the sun goes down, you may have to contend with freezing fog.

Before any journey of considerable length, make sure you have some water, a torch and a blanket packed. This will help you break down or get stranded and need to phone for help. You should also make sure that your phone is charged before the journey.

Check your tyres

While you should check your tyre pressure and regularly tread throughout the year, it is essential to keep an eye on them in winter weather. Tyres find it more difficult to grip the road in slippery conditions, so they must be well inflated and have plenty of tread.

The legal minimum tread in the UK is 1.6mm, but you should not let the tread go below 3mm in winter as that is the point at which the grip starts to deteriorate.

Leave more time for journeys

With the risk of black ice and freezing fog, you will need to take your time and drive slower than you normally would. Therefore, it is a good idea to plan to take longer for each journey. By leaving yourself enough time, you will not be in a hurry and won’t be tempted to drive quicker or more recklessly in adverse conditions. 

Even if you haven’t left enough time and are running late, your safety and other road users are more important. 

Check your lights

With the limited daylight during winter, you will be using your lights much more. Therefore, it is good to make sure they are all in working order, especially fog lights. Replace any faulty bulbs and pack a spare set on journeys just in case.

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