If the thought of driving in icy or snowy conditions leaves you frozen with fear, you’re not alone. Unlike our continental neighbours, many of us are not used to icy roads and heavy snowfalls. But, by taking a few steps, you can prepare both yourself and your vehicle for the most challenging of winter driving.
Beat the elements and stay safe with these handy pointers…
Prepare for your journey
Before you set off, clear any ice and snow that has formed on your car. Don’t be lazy and just make a little porthole on the driver’s side of the windscreen! Give yourself enough time to remove all the ice and snow from your car. Ideally, you should use an ice-scraper and a de-icer.
To reduce the condensation on cold windows, use the air-conditioning (if you have it) instead of heated air to demist your windows more quickly and effectively.
Don't forget your winter driving survival kit
For longer journeys, always have with you:
de-icer for windows
a mobile phone
a flask of hot drink or soup
some chocolate or other high-energy snacks
blankets and warm clothing
Save some room in the boot for emergency essentials such as:
a spade (if heavy snow is expected)
Protect yourself from the winter sun's glare
The glare from low winter sun is much worse on dirty windscreens, so make sure you keep all your windows clean and smear-free in winter. Wearing a suitable pair of anti-glare sunglasses when you're driving can help too.
Stay safe throughout your journey
Stopping distances can be 10 times longer in ice and snow, which means that at 50mph it will take you 530 metres – or 130 car lengths – to come to a halt. So watch your speed and only drive as fast as the conditions allow.
Allow more time for your journey
To minimise your risk of an accident – and to keep your car insurance premium down – plan in more time to get where you're going, and accept that you may arrive at your destination later than planned. Drive slowly, manoeuvre gently, decelerate more and brake less.
Minimise your risk of skidding
Keep to the main roads after snow as they're more likely to have been gritted. Try to limit gear changes by driving slowly in the highest gear possible, without straining your engine. If you have an automatic, take it out of Drive and go into 2. This will limit gear changes and make you less reliant on the brakes.
Accelerating heavily or braking abruptly in snowy or icy conditions can cause skidding. If your wheels lock and you go into a skid, ease off the accelerator or take your foot off the brake pedal and gently steer into the direction of the skid until your tyres grip the road again. Don't overcorrect as you'll end up sliding the other way.
Take extra care when driving at night
The drop in visibility at night time means that you have to be even more cautious after dusk. As well as all the usual hazards of winter driving, it's harder to judge speed and distance and you're probably less alert. Slow right down, and use your fog lamps if visibility drops below 100 metres. If you wear glasses, an anti-glare coating will help reduce headlight glare.