Tips for driving in snow and icy road conditions

Car driving in the snow and fog

Driving in winter conditions can be a scary, nerve wracking experience – especially for drivers who have been involved in a road traffic accident before.

It is a simple fact that driving in icy, snowy conditions adds an element of risk to your journey. The Department for Transport (DfT) report 29 fatalities, 251 serious injuries and 2,274 minor injuries from road traffic accidents in the UK in 2014 when there was snow or ice on the roads.

So what can you do to reduce the risk on the roads and causing injury to yourself and others?5 tips for driving in snow and icy road conditions

1. Don’t drive if you don’t have to

When winter conditions turn to an amber warning, Traffic Scotland recommends that if you don’t need to drive, then don’t do it.

Unless the journey is essential, then don’t take the risk as road conditions can be treacherous.

2. Check local roads and plan your route

If you need to drive in winter conditions, check Traffic Scotland for up to date information of road closures and warnings. Plan your route and keep your radio on for travel advice whilst driving.

3. Car checks before setting off

It is important that your car is ready for winter.

Before you set off, make sure all your windows and lights are clear of obstruction, fluids are all topped up and your tyres are properly inflated.

If you would like more information about getting your car ready for winter, please see our short blog Winter is coming – but is your car ready for winter?

4. Emergency kit

Always set off prepared for the possibility that you may get stuck as a result of conditions. Many people will remember the 2010 snow storm which caused travel chaos with drivers unexpectedly stranded on the motorway – with no supplies like a blanket, food or water.

Other useful things to store in your car in case of an emergency include portable phone charger, tyre pump, boots or wellies, torch, shovel and first aid box.

5. Drive slowly and calmly

Set off in second gear – or if your car has winter mode, use this. If you’re not sure, check the vehicle’s handbook to find out if your car has this feature.

It is important to drive slowly and leave more space from the car in front. This means that if your car slides, or you need to brake, you have more room to brake safely. Recommended gap is ten times the normal braking distance.

When approaching bends, slow down in plenty of time and turn the steering wheel slowly and steadily and avoid any sudden movements with the car. Brake gently to avoid sliding on ice and locking your wheels.

Remember to change into a higher gear as quickly as possible, test your brakes when it is safe to do so to check how well the car is gripping the road.

Lastly, stay calm. The less anxious you are, the less likely it is that you will make a sudden error or impulse decision.

Frequently asked questions for driving in snow or ice

What should you do if your car begins to slide?

Don’t panic! Steer gently into it, keep your hands on the steering wheel and don’t press on the brakes harshly. So, if the car is veering to the right, steer to the right and remember to stay calm.

What should you do if you begin to lose control of your car at a bend?

Don’t brake, but take your foot of the accelerator and steer your tyres towards where you want to go.

What should you do if approaching a hill?

When going up a hill, give plenty of space to vehicles in front so you can drive the same speed - without changing gear – or braking.

When travelling down a hill, avoid braking unless required and again, make sure you give plenty of room between you and vehicles in front.

What lights should you use?

For heavy snow, use dipped headlights and if visibility drops below 100m, use your fog lights.

What should you do if you get stuck in snow?

It is recommended that you move the vehicle slowly backwards and forwards in the highest gear to get out.

If that fails, get your shovel and dig – or ask someone for a push.

Handy tip

If the road hasn’t been gritted, be cautious of driving in wheel tracks as compressed snow is more likely to be icy than fresh snow.

Please stay safe!

If you are involved in a road traffic accident and would like legal advice, please call us on 0333 200 5925 to speak with someone.

Alternatively, fill in our enquiry form online and someone will contact you within 24 hours.