Winter driving tips – preparing for journeys in snow, ice
Reduced visibility and slippery road surfaces make winter
driving particularly hazardous. No matter what the other
conditions, if you can't see the road clearly, you will need to
reduce your speed so that you can stop within the distance you can
see to be clear.
Isolated patches and certain gradients of road surface will
remain icy after the other parts have thawed and you need to
be on the lookout for these areas.
Always reduce your speed smoothly and in plenty of time on
slippery surfaces. Avoid harsh braking and acceleration, or coarse
steering. Slow down in plenty of time for bends and corners. Black
ice, caused when rain freezes on the road surface, will make your
steering feel light. Respond by easing off the accelerator and
being delicate with your steering movements.
To brake on ice and snow without locking your wheels, get into a
low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use your
brakes gently. In icy conditions, increase the gap between you and
the vehicle in front. You may need to allow up to ten times the
normal distance for braking.
Your risk of skidding increases if your tyres do not have
adequate tyre depth. The legal minimum tread depth for cars and
light vehicles in the UK is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters
of the tyre tread width and around the entire outer circumference
of the tyre. If you are unsure about the tread depth of the tyres,
get them checked by professionals. Correct tyre pressures are also
very important. Under-inflated tyres will increase your fuel
consumption. Over-inflated tyres will reduce your grip on the road,
making it vital that you reduce your speed.
Skid correction is a complex subject, full coverage of which is
beyond the scope of this web page. However, the first requirement
in all skids is to identify and remove the cause, whether
it is too much speed for the circumstances, harsh braking or
acceleration, or coarse steering. The appropriate response after
doing this will then depend upon the type of skid and whether your
vehicle is front wheel, rear wheel or 4-wheel drive.
It is better to avoid skidding rather than hope you can control
a skid when it happens.
Take care around winter maintenance vehicles. Salting vehicles
are extremely powerful and travel at about 35mph spreading salt
across all lanes of motorways and trunk roads. Keep a safe distance
behind them - do not attempt to overtake.
Driving in windy conditions is stressful and
tiring. Experts recommend a stop every two hours, for
fresh air and hot drinks - but no alcohol. This is just a general
guide - the important thing is that you stop before fatigue steps
in, irrespective of how far you have travelled or how long you have
been on the road. Keep your vehicle well ventilated. The car heater
can quickly make you drowsy. Remember – tiredness kills.
If you get stuck in a snowdrift, try to get out of a rut by
moving slowly backwards and forwards using the highest gear you
can. Abandoned vehicles can cause problems for rescue vehicles and
snowploughs. To ensure that the road is cleared as quickly as
possible, you are advised to stay with your vehicle until help
arrives. Do not leave your engine running, as this can lead to a
dangerous build-up of fumes. If you have to leave your vehicle to
get help make sure you can be seen by other vehicles.
The ability to see and to hear clearly is vital for drivers to
take in information and to be able to make appropriate decisions.
Fog is therefore the most potentially dangerous of all weather
conditions. Freezing fog - when poor visibility is compounded by
the road surface being slippery - is a driver's worst nightmare.
Remember to drive defensively and always to be able to stop in the
distance you can see to be clear. If the fog closes in, reduce your
In any conditions of reduced visibility, a collision involving
one vehicle can quickly involve many others, especially if they are
driving too fast and too close to one another. Multiple vehicle
pile-ups reported in the media demonstrate that many drivers do not
adjust their driving sufficiently for the conditions.
The best advice is if the
weather conditions are bad then don't make the journey unless its
impossible to put it off and if you have to go out be
Tyres have already been mentioned, so make sure your vehicle
windows are ALL clear of
frost or settled snow to give maximum visibility. If snow has built
up on the roof or bonnet that may fall on to or into the path
of other road users clear it before you set off. Make sure that all
your lights are working and are clean and always use dipped
headlights in poor visibility. If visibility is less than 100
metres, use front and rear fog lights (but dont forget to turn them
off if visibility improves).
Take a shovel,blankets,a flask of hot drink and make sure your
mobile is fully charged,so if the worst does happen you can
call for help and stay warm until it arrives.
Bedford Borough Council Road Safety