How to drive in the snow

Wednesday 22nd December 2021

Why you should use your Air Conditioning in Winter

No matter how confident you are as driver, or how long it has been since you passed your driving test, driving in the snow is challenging for anyone. Attempting to reverse, park or simply drive on a literal skating rink can cause drivers to panic and feel uneasy – which increases likelihood for accidents to occur.

Follow our safety tips for driving in the snow to ensure you’re well prepared for your journey before you set off and know how to avoid accidents and panicking on the roads this winter.

Safety tips for driving in snow

Before your journey

One of the most important tips for driving in the snow is determining whether it’s safe to drive in the first place. Our daily life includes important commitments, so it’s likely we can’t/won’t want to miss these for the sake of the weather – however, knowing when it safe to attempt driving is a vital component of driving in the snow. If you can avoid leaving the house when the weather is treacherous, it’s advisable to do so.

If your journey is essential, some of the key things to bear in mind before you start driving are:

  • Planning your route – use Google Maps, Apple Maps or your vehicle’s Sat Nav to plan your route so you can pre-empt any potential hazardous roads, for example, country lanes which are less likely to have been gritted and cleared. You’ll also be able to see live traffic updates on live route planners to give you an understanding of how long your route will take.
  • De-icing – one of the most tedious parts of winter driving, de-icing your vehicle can be especially frustrating if you’re in a rush. However, never compromise your visibility before you set off – especially when the roads are icy, as it’s illegal to drive without full vision through your windshield.
  • Checking your tyres – checking tyres, especially for adequate tyre tread depth, is important - as tyres which have low tyre tread will not grip the road as effectively when driving against the winter elements. It’s also worth considering if your vehicle needs to swap from summer tyres to winter tyres – however, it’s important to note that studded snow tyres are illegal in the UK. Learn more about winter tyres from our helpful guide.
  • Checking your lights – test out your headlights, full beams, fog lights, rear lights and reverse lights before you set off – as these are an incredibly important part of driving in low visibility weather.
  • Preparing your vehicle – ensure that not only your vehicle is prepped and ready to hit the road, but you are, too – with anything you might need to get yourself out of a sticky situation. For example, a scraper, a drink, blanket, torch, shovel, jump cables and a first aid kit would never go a miss.

On the road

  • Gentle acceleration – as there’s less traction on the roads, ensure you don’t apply too much pressure to the accelerator – as this could cause the wheels to spin.
  • Gentle braking – in turn, ensuring you are gentle on the brakes, too, will reduce the chance of skidding.
  • Slower speed – take it slow and steady. Ensure you have enough momentum to keep the car moving, but approach the roads with caution – especially around slippery corners.
  • Account for longer stopping distances – try and travel 2 chevrons apart, as stopping distance significantly increases when driving in the snow. Learn more about how to account for stopping distances from our helpful guide.
  • Start in second gear – pull away in second gear rather than first, and ease your foot off the clutch to avoid wheels spinning.

How to drive uphill in the snow

As you approach a hill when driving in the snow, firstly, wait until the road is clear of traffic. This is so you’re less likely to need to stop halfway up. Keep momentum from a constant speed, and try to avoid changing gears on the hill.

How to drive an automatic car in snow

If you drive an automatic vehicle, it’s advised to check your manual or vehicle handbook – as your car may have a setting you should use for icy and snowy conditions. However, much of the guidance remains the same – gentle acceleration, cautious braking, and driving cautiously is advised.

How to drive in black ice

Driving in black ice is very similar to driving in snow – reduce your speed, ensure you do not harshly accelerate or brake, and keep calm. If you find yourself skidding, avoid sudden manoeuvres – try to keep the steering straight and glide the vehicle into a safe spot.

For more tips on driving in winter, such as driving in the dark or the rain, check out our helpful guide. Ensure your vehicle is ready for winter driving by maintaining regular servicing and MOT tests. Find your local Formula One Autocentre today.

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