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For many drivers, being on the road in winter can be a worry. British winter weather is certainly unpredictable and whether we’re battling heavy snow, icy roads or a huge downpour, it’s best that you are prepared for the cold weather. When it comes to driving, it’s good to know how to change a tyre or how to keep children safe in the car but you should also know how to drive safely on ice and snow. 

winter driving

We’ve recently looked at the top tips for driving in the rain and now we want to know how we can keep safe on the roads in winter months. Driving in the snow and ice can be scary but with a little forward planning and preparation, you can help to keep yourself, your passengers and other road users safe. Let’s look at the best winter driving tips and how to drive in safe and on ice.

What are the winter driving tips all drivers should know:

When it comes to winter driving, it can be hard to get bogged down with the icy and snowy weather rules set out in the Highway Code and the best practice advice, so we’ve highlighted our top 5 winter driving tips for you to remember.

1. Prepare an emergency kit. Most drivers will already have an emergency driving kit in their car but your winter kit should include items such as an ice scraper and de-icer, warm clothing, a blanket, a snow shovel, a torch and high visibility clothing. Find out what you should include in a car emergency kit

2. Keep your distance. Stopping distances increase significantly in adverse weather so if you’re battling strong winds, heavy rain, snow or icy roads, you should always increase the distance between you and other road users.

3. Check your car over. Before the winter months, you should check your car over to make sure it’s in good condition. You should pay close attention to your tyres as your grip can be reduced in the winter months. You could either invest in winter tyres or make sure your current tyres meet the minimum tread depth of 1.6mm.

4. Take your time. When driving in the winter, you should always leave extra time. Whether it’s leaving earlier in the morning, leaving time to plan your journey, checking the weather forecast before you go or leaving extra space between you and the driver in front, winter driving is all about forward planning.

5. Only drive if necessary. Last but not least, when the bad weather hits, it’s recommended that you should only drive if absolutely necessary. Fewer cars on the road mean less chance of road accidents and it can be worth asking yourself if you really need to make that journey or not.

How to drive in the snow:

  • Before you set off, you should have a fully de-iced and clear windscreen, clear any snow off your car or van and make sure you can see out of all windows or mirrors.
  • Make sure you have plenty of fuel for the journey ahead and also if you get stuck and need to keep warm.
  • Try to pull away in second gear if possible and ease your foot off the clutch slowly to avoid wheelspin.
  • Avoid harsh acceleration or braking.
fun in the snow
  • Try to slow down using your gears and dropping down instead of braking.
  • Drive in the highest gear possible for your speed.
  • If you’re driving up a hill, try to drop back to reduce the need for stopping on the hill and keep a constant speed while moving.
  • Daytime running lights are not usually enough in heavy snow and you will have to use your headlights in adverse weather. It’s important that you can see other road users and also they know you are there.

How do I drive an automatic car in the snow? 

It’s a common misconception that automatic cars are harder to drive in the snow and whilst some of the best automatic cars have a winter driving mode that can be useful, it ultimately comes down to the driver. However, that is a couple of automatic car winter driving tips you could take note of. 

  • Drive on fresh snow where you can as it can be easier for your car to grip rather than on dense snow.
  • Make sure all your actions are gently and preplanned, from turning the steering wheel to pressing the brakes, as this can increase the likelihood of wheelspin. 
  • Just like manual cars, you should always increase your distances as stopping distances can be up to 10x higher in adverse weather. 

How to drive on icy roads:

If the roads are icy it can seriously increase the likelihood of car crashes and road accidents and you should only drive on icy roads if absolutely necessary. However, if you need to go out and brave the cold, here are our top tips for driving on icy roads. 

  • If your car starts to skid on ice, it can feel like instinct to slam on the brakes but this can make it worse. Instead, you should gently try to steer into the skid. For example,e if the back of your car is going to the left, you should steer left too. 
  • Driving around corners can be tricky when the road is icy so you should try to brake gently before the turn and then slowly turn the steering wheel.
  • If your car loses grip, don’t panic. You should ease off the accelerator and keep your wheels pointing in the direction you are going. 
building a snowman

Find out more – Best cars for snow