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Winter Driving

Don't get caught out when driving in extreme conditions. Please ensure you have the right equipment with you for every eventuality. RoSPA have produced a 'Winter Driving Tips' information sheet with a recommended list of equipment for an emergency kit.

Prepare Your Vehicle

Have your vehicle fully serviced before winter starts & have the antifreeze tested. If you can't have it serviced then do your own checks. Check the following:

  • Lights are clean & working
  • Battery is fully charged
  • Windscreen, wiper blades & other windows are clean & the washer bottle filled with screen wash
  • Tyre condition, tread depth & pressure (of all tyres, including the spare)
  • Brakes are working well
  • Fluids are kept topped up, especially windscreen wash (to the correct concentration to prevent it freezing), anti-freeze and oil

ConditionsPrepare Your Journey

Listen to local/national weather broadcasts and travel bulletins - especially for the areas you will be driving through. As conditions can change Rapidly, check them regularly and be prepared to change your plans if conditions on your route worsen.

If conditions are very bad, and the emergency services are recommending that people don't travel, then avoid making your journey unless it is absolutely necessary.

If you decide you really must travel:

  • Let someone know where you are going and what time you hope to arrive, so that they can raise the alarm if you get into difficulties;
  • Plan alternative routes in case your main choice(s) becomes impassable;
  • Keep you fuel tank near to full to ensure you don't run out;
  • Make sure you have a fully charged mobile phone, so you can call for help or alert someone if you're delayed - it could be a long walk to a phone, if you don't have a mobile phone;
  • If you don't have an emergency kit in your vehicle, at least take extra warm clothes, boots and a torch. Consider keeping a couple of long life energy bars in the glove box;
  • Clear your windows and mirrors completely of any snow and ice before you set off (make sure the heater is blowing warm air before setting off - it will keep your windscreen clear.)

Snow & IceDriving in Snow or Ice

Adapt your driving to these conditions.

  • Reduce your speed. the chances of skidding are much grater and your stopping distance will increase;
  • Only travel at a speed at which you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear. Speed limits are the maximum in ideal conditions; in difficult conditions, they can often be too fast;
  • Avoid harsh braking and acceleration, or sharp steering;
  • Always reduce your speed smoothly and in plenty of time on slippery surfaces;
  • Slow down in plenty of time before bends and corners;
  • Braking on an icy or snow covered bend is extremely dangerous. The centrifugal force will continue to pull you outwards and the wheels will not grip very well. This could cause your vehicle to spin;
  • To brake on ice and snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use your brakes gently;
  • Increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front. You may need up to TEN TIMES the normal distance for braking;
  • Keep your vehicle well-ventilated, The car heater turned up full can quickly make you drowsy;
  •  In snow, stop frequently to clean the windows, wheel arches, lights and number plates;
  • Visibility will probably be reduced, so used dipped headlights;
  • During wintry weather, road surfaces are often wet and/or covered in frost and ice or snow. But this does not occur uniformly. A road will often have isolated patches of frost or ice after most of the road has thawed - this commonly occurs under bridges.

Emergency KitEmergency Kit

Keep one in your car, especially if you're going on a long journey. If this seems unnecessary, take a moment to imagine yourself stranded in your car overnight, due to a snow storm or flood. How would you stay warm? What would you eat and drink? If you must drive in these conditions it is recommended that you carry:

  • Tow rope
  • A shovel
  • Wellington boots
  • A hazard warning triangle
  • De-icing equipment
  • First aid kit
  • A working torch
  • A car blanket
  • Warm clothes
  • Emergency rations (inc hot drink in a flask)
  • Mobile phone (fully charged)