Driving in snow and ice: top tips

Driving in icy or snowy conditions is the toughest test you and your car are likely to face. Beat the elements and stay safe with these handy pointers…

Make sure you can see where you're going

Before you set off, clear any ice and snow from your car, ideally using an ice-scraper and a de-icer. Make sure you have full visibility – not just a little porthole on the driver's side of the windscreen! To reduce the condensation on cold windows use the air-conditioning (if you have it) instead of heated air.

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.

Don't forget your winter driving survival kit

For longer journeys, always have with you:

  • an ice-scraper
  • 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 duvet
  • warning triangle
  • torch
  • jump leads
  • towrope
  • first-aid kit
  • a spade (if heavy snow is expected)

Allow more time for your journeys

To minimise your risk of an accident – and to keep you 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.

Take it easy on the road

Stopping distances are 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.

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.

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.

Know what to do if you skid

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.

For other winter driving tips read our guide about winter tyres