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Driving in winter

Driving a car or other motor vehicle during the winter months when the roads are icy can require a completely different set of skills and considerations. This page gives you some tips and advice on winter driving

When driving in the winter, be prepared! Too many people are unprepared for the different conditions that are associated with winter driving.

This page carries a number of hints and tips you may find useful.

Do you really need to travel?

If the weather is really bad, ask yourself whether your journey really necessary? Consider postponing your journey until the poor weather conditions and low visibility improves.

Fill Up With Fuel!

Ensure you have enough petrol, diesel or LPG for your journey. The start/stop conditions of winter driving and the need for heaters to keep you warm and windows clear, headlights and windscreen wipers can use more fuel than normal. Also, using 4 wheel drive mode (on vehicles that have switchable 4 wheel drive) in winter will increase fuel comsumption.

Clear your windscreen

Ensure that you clear your windscreen of ice using a scraper or de-icer BEFORE you start driving. We've all seen people driving on a cold winter morning peering through a "pillar box" sized clearing in their windscreen! Ensure that all windows and mirrors are completely cleared of ice and mist, not just the windscreen. You wouldn't drive around with newspaper pasted to the windows obscuring your view, so why drive around with the windows covered in ice or mist. Do not use hot water to clear your windscreen however, as this could crack your windscreen. Also carry a lock de-icer in case your locks become frozen

Use major roads

If your journey usually requires the use of minor roads, consider altering your route to work, the shops or wherever else you are travelling to use major roads instead. Main roads are more likely to have been cleared of snow and ice or gritted. The increased amount of traffic on main roads could also make them safer to use that unsalted and infrequently used minor roads

Be perpared for delays during your journey

Winter driving, and driving in adverse weather conditions can increase the amount of time that your journey takes. Carry a bottle of water, a high energy snack, a blanket and even a flask of hot tea in case you get held up or stuck in snow. If you are on medication ensure that you have enough of any medication you may be taking in case you are delayed.

Take your mobile phone with you

If you own a mobile phone, you will probably have it anyway, but ensure that you take it even if you don't think it is necessary. Even a short trip to the shops can throw up unexpected situations and you never know when you may need to make an emergency phonecall. Consider taking a charger too as mobile phone batteries may not work for as long in cold conditions.

Let other people see you when you are driving

Use your headlights in heavy snow or rain to help other drivers to see you. Use your fog lights if conditions are poor (in accordance with The Highway Code), but remember to switch off your fog lights when conditions improve. The high intensity of fog lights can have a "blinding" effect on on-coming drivers, especially those wearing glasses. And leaving on rear fog lights in good weather conditions can make it difficult for following drivers to see your brake lights.

Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to arrive or return

Consider telling a friend or family member where you are going, when you expect to arrive and what time you expect to return in case of emergency. If you do not arrive when expected at least someone will know that you are missing!

Be careful!

Above all, be careful. Drive with care and attention, leave extra room between you and the car in front in case you have to break suddenly. Sudden breaking in icy, snowy or wet conditions can cause the car to go into a skid. Leave enough space to allow steady and controlled breaking and more thinking time in an emergency.

Useful Links

The Highway Code

Essential reading for all road users, not just learner drivers. The Highway Code contains the most up-to-date advice on road safety and summarises the laws that apply to all users of the road.


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