Safety On The Snow - Best Practice For Safe Snowy Journeys
In the UK, we can face a lot of different and difficult driving conditions in the wintertime. It doesn’t tend to snow very often in the UK, but it’s something we all need to be prepared for. Whether it’s the hours of darkness, unpredictable high winds, ice, or snow itself, winter driving can feel, and indeed be, hazardous.
We’ve put together this guide to driving in snowy and icy conditions to help you feel comfortable and confident on your journeys through the winter months.
The key three principles of winter driving are the three Ps: Prepare, Protect, and Prevent. Prepare yourself and your car for your journey, protect yourself during the drive, and prevent accidents and crashes on the road by following our advice below.
Plan your journey
This sounds like a strange suggestion – most of us will use sat nav technology these days to get us from A to B. But instead of blindly choosing the first or quickest route your sat nav suggests, take a closer look at the route. Get live traffic updates, and consider the sorts of roads being suggested. Bear in mind that, on a snowy or icy night, some less used roads will be less likely to be gritted. Also, be aware that roads can be differently exposed to the elements, so instead of choosing the route that winds directly up over a tall hill, where ice and snow are likely to be worse, consider going around. Keep an eye on the local weather forecasts too, to make sure you’re not caught out by worsening conditions.
Additionally, avoiding areas prone to Winter accidents may be worth considering. Here is a list of the Top 10 UK Areas with the Most Accidents in Winter Weather.
Leave yourself extra time
Cutting it fine on time might usually be ok, but in snowy and icy conditions, you want to do the opposite, so you can take it slow and steady, taking no unnecessary risks. You’ll also need more time in practice. This is because you’ll likely have to clear your windows, mirrors, lights, and your car’s roof - of condensation, ice, and snow - before you set off.
Be aware that driving with a layer of snow on the top of your car is actually illegal and can be really dangerous if it slips off mid-journey when you brake, obscuring your vision. It’s also illegal to set off before you’ve cleared all of your windows - don’t be tempted to just scratch a small part in front of the driver’s seat and hope the rest clears quickly, scrape the ice off of every window and mirror.
Choose your shoes
It’s always wise to wear sensible shoes to drive in, but in especially sensitive conditions, it’s extra important to make sure you’re wearing soft, thin-soled flat shoes, with a little grip. Practically, make sure they’re dry, too - if you break down, cold, wet feet could be a real concern.
Turn off your wipers
Make sure your wipers are turned off before you switch the engine on! If you switch the engine on and the wipers try to move when iced to the windscreen, this could be enough to blow the fuse on the wiper control!
Check your tyres
Tyre tread is important year-round but is all the more crucial in snowy and icy conditions. Although a minimum of 1.6mm is required by law, your grip will reduce from 3mm, so it’s wise to keep your tyres in good condition and with plenty of tread before winter arrives.
For more information on the importance of tire condition; here is Everything You Need To Know.
Check your windscreen wash
Make sure this is topped up, and also ensure you are using a screenwash of good quality which can be used down to around -35C. This ensures that it’ll never freeze in its tank. You wouldn’t want to find yourself in harsh winter conditions without your windscreen wipers.
Carry a breakdown kit with you
Make sure you have a blanket to wrap yourself up in, a wind-up torch (so you avoid the woes of flat batteries!), a fully charged phone, a litre of water and some long-life snacks to keep you going. Make sure you have your car breakdown cover provider’s number saved, so you can get in touch asap! For your car, make sure to have spare screenwash, an ice scraper, a shovel, a phone charger, a map, a basic first aid kit, a warning triangle and hi-vis vest, some jump leads, a square of carpet (really handy to put under your wheels if stuck in the snow) and a spade.
Best driving tips for the snow:
Use low revs to set off.
Move up to a higher gear as soon as the car can handle it for more control and less wheel slip.
Leave a much more conservative stopping distance than usual - stopping distances can be up to ten times greater in the snow and ice.
Plan ahead - if you see a hill coming, leave plenty of room in front to allow you to maintain a constant speed and minimise changing down gears.
Use a low gear for downhill to avoid braking unless necessary, leaving lots of room between you and the car ahead.
Use dipped headlights in heavy snow - daytime lights aren’t enough and you want to ensure the rear lights are illuminating too.
Use your fog lights when visibility is less than 100 metres - but turn them off as and when visibility improves.
If you begin to skid, turn the wheel into it (for example, if your rear wheels skid to the right, steer the right). This should help you regain control and then right your car’s direction. Don’t brake harshly or take your hands off the steering wheel.
Brake before turning the wheel when coming into a bend. If you lose control, try not to panic and take your foot off the accelerator - do not brake. Point your wheels in the direction you want to go.
Always ensure you have plenty of fuel. If you have an accident or get stranded, you want to be able to keep the heat on, and to drive off when conditions allow.
Snow is not the only potentially hazardous weather condition. For more advice regarding other conditions, please find The Ultimate Guide to Driving in Winter
We hope that you have found our article on safe driving in the snow useful. If you’re looking to find an all-weather, all-terrain vehicle to facilitate easier driving this winter, get in touch with Rivervale today on 01273 433480 to see if you can help you choose the best lease to fit your driving needs. Alternatively, request a callback at a time that suits you.
Leave a Facebook comment for your chance to win £20 of High Street Vouchers. Each month we pick our favourite comment from the previous month - get involved for your chance to win...
Users must be logged in to Facebook to view and add comments. Comments do not reflect Rivervale's views unless clearly stated.