In winter check the local weather forecast for warnings of icy or snowy weather. DO NOT drive in these conditions unless your journey is essential. If it is, take great care and allow more time for your journey. Take an emergency kit of de-icer and ice scraper, torch, warm clothing and boots, first aid kit, jump leads and a shovel, together with a warm drink and emergency food in case you get stuck or your vehicle breaks down.
Before you set off
- you MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows
- you MUST ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible
- make sure the mirrors are clear and the windows are demisted thoroughly
- remove all snow that might fall off into the path of other road users
- check your planned route is clear of delays and that no further snowfalls or severe weather are predicted.
- Tyres – Check the tread depth and pattern. Are there any cuts, damage or signs of cord visible at the side wall.
- Brakes – It’s essential that the brakes are operating correctly. This is especially important on wet, icy or snow-covered roads. Any imbalance could cause a skid in the brakes are applied on a slippery surface.
- Oil and Fuel – Use the correct grades of fuel and oil in every hot or very cold weather.
In windy conditions, be alert for places where the road is shielded, ie by hedges or banks. When there’s a break in this shielding, the sudden effect of high winds may mean your steering could become more difficult, and your vehicle might be blown off course.
Be aware of the effects of strong crosswinds on other road users.
In particular, watch out for these effects
- after passing motorway bridges
- on high, exposed sections of the road
- when passing vehicles towing caravans, horse boxes, etc
Avoid known problem areas such as viaducts and high suspension bridges, if possible. Be aware that some may be closed to certain vehicles under high wind conditions. On high bridges, one lane is sometimes kept free of other traffic. This is also known as a buffer lane and is used to prevent vehicles being blown into the path of other road users in the next lane.
If you must travel under conditions of high winds, it may be useful to plan an alternative route before you set off, just in case.Tips for driving in wet weather
- Use dipped headlights so that other drivers can see you. Even more important when your lights go on automatically, when it gets dark, but you may need to turn your lights on manually during day time, when visibility is bad.
- Keep your speed down. Windscreen wipers struggle to cope with very heavy rain, so your view of the road ahead won’t be as good as it could be. Driving at a lower speed will give you more time to react to hazards that aren’t immediately visible through the rain.
- Make sure that you keep the windscreen free of smears and streaks and always keep your washer bottle topped up.
- We weather reduces your tyre grip on the road. Allow at least double the separation distance between you and the vehicle in front.
- If things are getting too much for you, pull over in a safe place and wait for the traffic to die down. It will be much easier to continue your drive when the roads are quieter.
- While you’re waiting, do something different to help yourself relax. For example, buy a cup of coffee and read a newspaper. Enjoy some time to yourself.
Tips for driving in snow and ice
- Firstly, consider whether your journey is really necessary. Can you cancel your arrangements and drive when the roads are safer?
- If you must drive in snow and ice, make sure you keep your speed down.
- Controlling a skid can be very difficult, so drive gently to avoid getting into one in the first place. Choose as high a gear as possible and avoid harsh use of the steering, brakes or accelerator.
- Be especially careful on corners and bends, where there’s a greater risk of your tyres losing grip – particularly if you’re driving too fast.
- Increase your following distance in icy conditions. Remember that the stopping distance in these conditions can be ten times as long as it would be in good driving conditions.
- Regularly check that your tyres have a good depth of tread and are inflated to the right pressure. Any shortcomings will be more apparent in slippery conditions.
- Make sure you have plenty of winter screen wash in your windscreen-washer bottle before you start driving.
- Remain vigilant for hazards that occur in snow and ice. Other road users may be struggling. This is especially true of large vehicles, whose wide tyres don’t grip well on snow and ice.
- Be aware that there may be potholes under the snow and ice.
When your vehicle get stuck in snow
- If your vehicle is fitted with a manually selected retarder system, engage it before going down a hill covered with snow.
- Try freeing your vehicle stuck in snow, by alternating between the reverse and forward gears if possible, is a good way of getting moving again when the snow is soft.
- Don’t keep revving in a low gear; you’ll only make the driving wheels dig in even further.
- A shovel is often handy if you must go through areas where snow is a problem during the winter.
Don’t try to overtake a snow plough or vehicle spreading sand or other de-icers. You may find yourself running into deep snow or skidding on an untreated stretch of road, which these maintenance vehicles could have treated had you followed on behind them.
Keep well back from these vehicles. Their presence could mean that the weather is already bad or that it’s expected to be.