Even the most experienced drivers may have seen some hairy moments on the road while driving during winter. The harsh conditions can make even the simplest of journeys a lot more challenging than usual. Whether you’re driving in snow, on ice, or through pounding rain, it’s important to try to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature might throw at you.
With that in mind, we’ve put together some useful and easy to remember tips to follow when driving this winter...
One of the main problems a lot of drivers will face in winter is the possibility of skidding on icy roads - no matter how good a driver you are. Driving slowly and carefully in as high a gear as possible, while accelerating and braking gently, will help to avoid this.
It’s also a good idea to pull away in second gear instead of first during winter. If you’re driving an automatic in slippery, snowy conditions it's best to select '2', which limits the gear changes and also makes you less reliant on the brakes. Some autos even have a 'winter' mode, which totally locks out first gear to reduce the risk of wheel spin. If you’re unsure, just check your user manual.
This might sound really obvious, but it could mean the difference between getting yourself stranded or enjoying a smooth, if slightly longer, journey than usual. Before you set off, think about the drive you’re about to make and stick to the main roads where possible - they are more likely to be gritted.
Also, always allow extra time for your journey and put safety ahead of speed. For example, get up a little earlier than usual to give yourself plenty of time to defrost your car before setting off.
Braking on snow covered or icy roads can be dangerous - even more so on bends. Braking too sharply or aggressively will pull your car outwards if your wheels don’t have a good grip on the road and may also cause you to spin so avoid harsh braking where possible.
The same goes for aggressive steering. To brake on ice or snow without locking your wheels, drop down into a lower gear than usual, let your speed fall, then gently apply the brakes. Finally, always remember to increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front - you may need up to ten times the normal distance.
It’s not just your car you need to think about - your clothing will play a big part too.
Use sturdy shoes when walking to and from your car, and then either dry slippers or thin-soled trainers for working the pedals when driving. If you have to wear smart shoes to work, for example, then just bring them along and change into them when you need to.
Don’t be tempted to wear thick gloves when driving because you won’t be able to sense how the car is moving beneath you. It’s okay to wear a hat, as long as it doesn’t cover your ears. You need to be able to hear what’s going on around you in harsh weather conditions, especially if it’s foggy and you can’t see much.
It’s also worth carrying some warm clothes with you too, in case of a breakdown.
Visibility is often very poor in winter, so make sure that your lights are working properly. It’s not just about you being able to see either - you need to make sure other drivers can see you, too. Check that your brake lights (one way to do this is to reverse towards a garage door and look for the reflection of the lights), headlights and reverse lights are all functioning as well as they should be.
If they’re damaged or faded then get them seen to (see How safe is your car?). Also, carry a spare set of bulbs in your car for longer trips, in case you suffer some broken bulbs on the way.
The glare of the winter sun often leads to accidents. The angle of the sun is lower in the winter, so keep these tips in mind:
Find out the 7 checks you need to make to Prepare Your Car For Winter.
Published: 2nd February 2016 | Last reviewed: July 2017