Driving in the snow can be a daunting experience for just about any motorist, not just for new and learner drivers.
Across most of the UK, we don’t often encounter heavy snowfall, so when it does hit, icy and snowy road conditions can make driving a challenge for all road users.
It’s important to take time beforehand to know how to prepare your car, and yourself, for driving safely in the snow in order to avoid accidents or break downs.
Above all, if you don’t feel confident enough driving in the snow or bad weather it’s best to find an alternative method of transport.
But if you find yourself having to drive in adverse weather conditions, follow these top tips to make sure you arrive safely.
Before Setting Off
Even if you think you’ll never need to use them it’s worth stashing some essentials in your boot. Ideally, you’ll always have a first aid kit, jump leads and a torch tucked away, but in colder weather make sure you’ve some de-icer, an ice scraper and some warm clothing too.
If you find yourself stuck or broken down, you’ll be thankful of taking a warm drink in a flask, some emergency food and keeping your phone charged up too.
Plan Your Route
While some main roads and highways will be treated and should be clearer, backstreets and smaller roads might still be hazardous or even closed off.
Before you set off, make sure you check your journey and plan a different route if needed. Giving yourself some extra time to arrive at your destination can save yourself getting stressed out on the road.
Clear Your Car
Even though you might see the odd driver trying to see through a partially snow covered windscreen, The Highway Code is very clear on why this is wrong:
- you MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows
- you MUST ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible
- make sure the mirrors are clear and the windows are demisted thoroughly
- remove all snow that might fall off into the path of other road users
So take a few extra minutes in the morning to fully clear your vehicle of any frost or snow and avoid getting pulled over unnecessarily or posing a risk to other drivers and pedestrians.
On the Road
Keep Your Distance
Stopping distance can be ten times greater in when driving in the snow and ice, so give yourself plenty of space from the car in front to allow you to stop in time
Take Extra Care
Major roads and highways will most likely be gritted or treated, but side streets and other roads might be a bit precarious. Either way, make sure you drive carefully, taking extra care to anticipate traffic lights and junctions so you’re not reacting too late.
Mind Your Gears
The Highway Code recommends taking icy roads at a slow speed in as high a gear as possible, making sure you accelerate and brake very gently to avoid your tyres losing grip on the road.
When turning tight corners or bends, take time to progressively brake slowly and slow down before the bend and steer smoothly around it so you don’t lose grip.
Visibility can be dramatically reduced in snow showers or sleet so use your lights if you cannot see further than 100 metres away. You can use fog lights if you need to but they must be turned off when visibility improves.
Advice For Learner Drivers
If you’re worried that your driving lessons might (or might not!) be cancelled during the bad weather, speak to your driving instructor and make sure you tell them of any concerns.
Finally, if your driving test is cancelled due, the DVSA will automatically arrange for another test date for you. Read more about this here.
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