Winter Driving Tips

Good vehicle maintenance is particularly important in winter. Make sure your battery is fully charged, your tyres have plenty of tread and are the right pressure, and your wipers and lights work properly. Add antifreeze to the radiator and top up screen wash. 

During wintry weather conditions

  • Ask yourself - is your journey absolutely essential?
  • Check the local and national weather forecasts
  • Listen to local and national radio for travel information
  • Tell someone at your destination what time you expect to arrive
  • Make sure you are equipped with warm clothes, food, boots and a torch. In snowy conditions, take a spade
  • Clear your windows and mirrors before you set out, and carry a screen scraper and de-icer
  • Adjust your driving to the conditions - hail, heavy snow and rain reduce visibility, so use dipped headlights and reduce your speed

Driving tips for freezing conditions

  • Beware of shady areas where ice may not have melted
  • Allow extra time for your journey
  • Make sure you can see clearly and be seen
  • Use main routes wherever possible
  • Drive with care and allow greater stopping distances - it can take ten times longer to stop in icy conditions than on a dry road
  • Drive slowly, allowing extra room to slow down and stop
  • Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin
  • Manoeuvre gently, avoiding rapid acceleration, harsh braking or sharp turns of the steering wheel
  • To brake on ice or snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use the brake pedal gently
  • If you start to skid, ease off the accelerator but do not brake suddenly
  • Check your vehicle tyre pressures, depth of tread, lights, wipers, washer bottle, antifreeze and battery charge level

Driving tips for heavy snow

  • Only drive if it is necessary
  • Dress warmly and be prepared if you get stuck
  • If it is snowing and windy, avoid travelling if you can
  • Take care around winter maintenance vehicles. Keep a safe distance behind salting lorries and snowploughs, and do not attempt to overtake. Watch out for banks of snow thrown up by the plough

Other winter weather problems

  • Black ice, which is very difficult to see on road surfaces
  • Hoar frost, where ice crystals form on the surface of the road and make it very slippery
  • Freezing rain, which occurs when rain falls on very cold surfaces and freezes. It is very rare but extremely difficult to deal with as any salt spread prior to the rain starting is usually washed away and re-salting is then needed to treat the frozen surface
  • Keep sunglasses handy - dazzle from winter sun can be dangerous

Before and during winter – what you can do 

Before winter arrives, check your vehicle …

  • has been maintained / serviced
  • tyres have a good tread depth (including spare)
  • cooling system contains anti-freeze at correct strength
  • windscreen wipers and washers are working properly
  • washer bottles are full and contain a suitable additive to prevent freezing
  • carries a screen scraper and de-icer
  • battery is in good condition, topped up and fully charged

Before driving in wintry weather conditions, check …

  • local and national radio / TV for travel and weather information
  • all vehicle lights are clean and working
  • all windows and mirrors are clear from frost and snow

In extreme conditions, ask yourself …

  • is your journey necessary
  • have you checked weather forecasts and road conditions and carefully considered the advice given
  • have you a full tank of fuel
  • does anyone know your destination and expected time of arrival
  • have you warm clothing, hot drinks, food, wellingtons, a torch and shovel with you.

Remember, in ice and snow conditions the action of traffic is needed to help and disperse salt.

  • Not all roads are treated
  • Stick to main roads which have been salted
  • Allow extra time for your journey in wintry weather
  • Delaying the time you leave work can help reduce congestion.

When driving in wintry weather conditions, check you …

  • are driving with due care appropriate to conditions on both treated and untreated roads
  • reduce speed in snow and icy conditions
  • are driving in the highest gear possible to help keep control of the vehicle
  • avoid harsh braking and acceleration
  • maintain a safe stopping distance relative to prevailing conditions
  • are using dipped headlights in poor visibility and snow
  • use rear fog lights in poor visibility and switch them off when conditions improve
  • are watching out for other road users including motor and pedal cycles, pedestrians and children playing.

If you get into trouble …

  • stay with your vehicle if possible until help arrives
  • if you have to leave your vehicle make yourself visible to other road users
  • if you are forced to abandon your vehicle give local police the details (0845 60 60 60 6) and park in such a way as to ensure you are not obstructing Winter Maintenance vehicles trying to treat the roads. Remember, a gritter is twice the width of a car.
Last Modified: 05/12/2018
For more information contact:

Highway Networks

Tel: 01495 766747

Back to top