How to drive safely in the snow

Heading out on the roads in the snow? Here are some top tips

Spring weather Mar 7th 2023
Spring weather Mar 7th 2023

With snow already falling across many parts of the UK, and with more forecast, it’s bringing disruption on many roads.

Driving in the snow and ice brings greater risk, and can make things more difficult in general too. Snow driving is something that many people worry about, but if you need to head out on the road, here are some top tips.

Do you need to drive?

The first thing you should think about is whether you need to travel in the snow. If the journey isn’t essential, it’s worth staying at home indoors and not having to negotiate the wintery roads.

Clear all the snow from your car before driving

Winter weather Jan 2nd 2021
You should clear snow and ice from your car’s windows and body before setting off. (PA/Danny Lawson)

If you do need to head out on the roads in the snow, the first place to start is by making sure you’ve cleared as much snow as possible from your vehicle before setting off.

It’s illegal to drive with a windscreen covered in snow and ice, so you should make sure it’s cleared properly. Dedicated de-icing products can be used if the vehicle is frozen over, or a good old-fashioned ice scraper will help on the windscreen itself. Don’t forget the side windows and rear glass, too.

You should remove as much snow from the roof and bonnet of your vehicle as possible too, as the last thing you want is hard bits of snow flying off your vehicle. Chunks of ice coming off one vehicle have been known to smash the windows of others.

Don’t leave your vehicle unattended

While waiting for your vehicle to defrost, it’s hugely important not to leave it running unattended.

It’s times like this that many opportunist thieves strike, and that’s the last thing you would want to happen. If your vehicle is stolen with the keys inside or in the ignition, insurers may not pay out, either. Always stay with your vehicle while it’s defrosting.

Try and stick to the main roads

Winter weather Mar 8th 2023
Main roads are the most likely to be gritted and cleared of snow. (PA/Ben Birchall)

Once you’re behind the wheel, wherever possible you should try and stick to main roads. These are the most likely to have been gritted and be clear, as more drivers will have been using them too. Smaller back roads are often likely to have built-up snow still, even sometime after the snow has fallen.

It’s worth trying to stick to flatter routes without hills if there’s the option, too, and particularly in heavier snowfall or in strong winds, these will be the least likely to be affected by snowdrifts.

Leave plenty of time and keep your distance

When driving in the snow, or any poor weather for that matter, one of the best things you can do is leave plenty of time as the last thing you want is to be rushing.

You should also leave a far bigger gap between you and other vehicles in the snow, too, because the risk of ice and snow means braking distances are far greater should you need to slow down or come to a stop. It also helps traffic to move continuously without stopping and starting, and reduces the chance of you getting stuck in the snow.

Be gentle with car inputs

Spring weather Mar 4th 2016
You should be as gentle as possible with your steering and braking inputs. (PA/Peter Byrne)

Some of the best advice for driving in the snow is to be as gentle as possible with your inputs.

Harsh accelerating, braking and steering will all upset the vehicle and make it far more likely to spin or lose control. Maintaining a constant speed, being very gentle with steering and avoiding braking wherever possible will all help in snow driving.

You should also change up gears earlier than you might do normally, and it’s a good idea to set off from a standstill in second gear as this will reduce the chance of the wheels spinning.

Pack prepared

The last thing you want to happen in the snow is to get stuck, but this is a risk you need to think about. Especially if you’re driving on more rural or isolated routes, it’s important to pack prepared should the worst happen and you get stuck.

So before doing any longer journey in the snow, you should make sure you’re carrying essential supplies, including food and something to drink, as well as warm clothing.

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