Winter Driving Tips

With the darker nights and colder weather now with us, it is important to take some time to make sure both you and your car are prepared for the more hazardous driving conditions the winter brings with it.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) provide some excellent guidelines to make sure you are ready for winter driving:

Preparing your car

RoSPA recommends having your vehicle fully serviced before the winter, making sure that the anti-freeze has been tested and is at the correct concentration.

If it is not possible to have your vehicle serviced, you can check carry out the following checks:
  • Ensure all of the vehicle’s lights are working and are clear of dirt.
  • The vehicle’s battery is fully charged.
  • The windows, windscreen and wipers are clean and in good condition. Make sure that the windscreen washer bottle is full and the centration of the washer fluid is that recommended by the manufacturer for winter use to prevent it freezing.
  • Condition of the tyres, including tread depths and pressures. Checking the tyre pressures is particularly important as the colder weather will lead to a reduction in pressures. Don’t forget to check the spare wheel too.
  • Ensure your brakes are working correctly.
  • All fluid levels are kept topped up – in particular the windscreen wash, oil and anti-freeze.

If you would prefer not to carry out these checks yourself, all of our dealerships offer Winter Checks are very reasonable prices. Please contact your preferred dealership to find out more.

Emergency Kit

When poor weather is forecast, RoSPA recommends keeping an emergency kit in your car, especially if you are making a longer journey, in case you become stranded in your car.

In these cases, RoSPA recommends you include the following in your emergency kit:
  • A tow rope
  • A shovel
  • Wellington boots
  • A hazard warning triangle
  • De-icing equipment
  • A fully stocked first-aid kit
  • A working torch
  • A blanket
  • Warm clothes
  • Emergency rations (including a hot drink in a flask)
  • A fully charged mobile phone

Preparing for your Journey

Listening to the local/national weather forecasts for areas you will be travelling through is essential. Weather conditions can change rapidly during the winter months so make sure you continue to check the forecasts and change your travel plans if conditions become too bad.

If the emergency services are recommending people do not travel because conditions are too bad, then avoid making any journeys that are not absolutely necessary. Could you travel at another time or use the phone or email to avoid making the journey at all?

If you have no choice but to travel, RoSPA recommends the following:
  • Make sure someone knows you are making the journey and at what time you expect to arrive. This way they can raise the alarm if you should get into difficulties.
  • Be aware of alternatives to your planned route should it become impassable.
  • Make sure your fuel tank is near to full to ensure you don’t run out should the journey take longer than you expected.
  • Fully charge your phone before you set off so you can alert someone if you are delayed or contact the emergency services should you become stuck.
  • Ensure your windows and mirrors are completely free of snow and ice before starting your journey. Also make sure your car’s heater is blowing warm air before you set off as this will make sure your windscreen remains clear.

Driving in Snow

If you must drive in snowy or icy conditions, make sure you drive accordingly:

  • Slow down – The risk of skidding is greatly increased and stopping distances will be dramatically more than in normal driving conditions.
  • Travel at speeds suitable for the conditions – no faster than the speed at which you could safely stop within the distance you can see to be clear. Speed limits are the maximum allowed in ideal conditions – when weather conditions are poor they are often too fast.
  • Don’t accelerate or brake sharply and use smooth steering inputs.
  • Reduce your speed smoothly and in plenty of time – this is especially true before bends and corners.
  • It is important to remember that braking on an icy or snowy bend is highly dangerous. Your tyres will not grip well and centrifugal force will pull you outwards and could cause your vehicle to spin. Wherever possible reduce your speed before you reach the bend.
  • To reduce your speed on ice or snow without locking your wheels, use a lower gear than normal to increase your vehicle’s engine braking and use the brakes gently.
  • It may take you up to 10 times longer than normal to stop in snowy and icy conditions so increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front.
  • Make sure you keep your car well ventilated – a car’s heater on full can quickly make you drowsy.
  • When driving in snow, stop frequently to make sure your car’s lights, windows, number plates and wheel arches are free of obstructions.
  • Visibility is likely to be reduced, so use dipped headlights.
  • It is possible for some parts of roads to remain icy after the majority has thawed – for example under bridges – so remain vigilant.

If you become stuck in snow:

  • Move your vehicle backwards and forwards slowly, using the highest gear possible, to get out of the rut. Trying to power your way out by revving the engine will only make things worse.
  • If this does not help, you may have to enlist some help of a passer-by to push you out or you may have to dig out your car with a shovel.

If you become stuck in a snow drift:

  • Stay with your vehicle.
  • Call the breakdown or emergency services and let help come to you.
  • Don’t run your engine to keep warm.

Driving in Rain

Rain reduces visibility and increases the distance required to slow down or stop. In rainy conditions you may need twice the amount of space to stop that you would in dry conditions. Make sure you use dipped headlights and your windscreen wipers and use plenty of time to plan your movements.

Aquaplaning

Aquaplaning occurs when driving too fast through standing water. The tread on the tyres cannot clear the water away quickly enough and the vehicle begins to float on top of the water. When this occurs your ability to brake and steer will be greatly reduced.

Aquaplaning can be avoided by reducing your speed in wet conditions as well as having the correct tyre pressures and tread depth. If you should find yourself aquaplaning, ease of the accelerator and brakes until your speed drops enough for the tyres to make contact with the road.

Flooded roads

  • Avoid driving through the deepest water. This is often found towards the kerbs.
  • Don’t attempt to drive through flood water if appears too deep.
  • If you don’t know how deep the water is, find an alternative route.
  • If you decide to risk driving through floodwater, drive slowly in first gear. Keep the engine revs high by slipping the clutch to prevent the car stalling. Be aware of bow waves from vehicles approaching in the opposite direction.
  • Once you exit flood water make sure to test your brakes.

Driving in Fog

Driving in foggy conditions is best avoided if at all possible as it is one of the most dangerous weather conditions for driving. An accident involving one vehicle can quickly spiral to involve many others.

If you must drive:

  • Follow the weather forecast and travel advice closely.
  • Allow plenty of extra time for your journey.
  • Check your car – in particular its lights – before you begin your journey.
  • Reduce your speed and keep it down.
  • Switch on headlights and fog lights if visibility is reduced.
  • If you can see the vehicles behind you, they can see you. Switch off your rear fog lights to avoid dazzling those behind you.
  • Use your car’s demister and windscreen wipers.
  • Don’t ‘hang on’ the rear lights of the car in front as it is likely you will be too close to stop safely if anything should happen.
  • Switch of distracting noises and open your window slightly so you can hear what is going on around you – this is especially useful at junctions.
  • Don’t speed up as soon as the visibility improves slightly. Fog is often patchy and visibility could soon be reduced again.
  • If you breakdown in foggy conditions inform the police and get the vehicle off the road as soon as possible.
  • Avoid parking on the road in fog and always use some kind of warning light if it is on the wrong-side of the road.

Driving with Low Sunshine

During the winter months’ sunshine can cause difficult driving conditions in the same way as poor weather. The angle of the sun in winter can mean it is too low in the sky for your sun visor to help.

If you are blinded by glare:

  • Slow down.
  • Reduce the effect of glare by making sure both the inside and outside of your windscreen is clean and free of grease.
  • Make sure to remove your sunglasses as soon as the sun goes in as they will reduce your ability to see.