Driving in Winter? Here's our guide on how to help you navigate those challenging weather conditions
When winter brings those freezing and treacherous weather conditions to our roads, we don't all have those large 4x4's to help us navigate them safely. And not only does winter bring snow and ice, it also brings fog, floods, low sun and strong winds. Below is our list of winter driving tips to help you keep safe on the roads this winter.
Driving on Snowy and Icy Roads
– If your car has a snow or ice button, use it! This will reduce torque to the driven wheels and then there will be less chance of wheelspin.
– Be gentle with the clutch – power will be delivered to the wheels more smoothly, reducing the chance of skidding.
– Be gentle with the throttle – in a front-wheel drive car, too much throttle will make a car understeer, resulting in the car not turning as much as it would with a normal amount of grip.
– Drive slowly and smoothly. A rear-wheel drive car will oversteer if you are rough with the controls, meaning the car will tend to slide from the rear.
– ABS helps improve control while braking – try not to panic if you start to skid. Keep your eyes focused on the point you want to reach and steer towards it.
– Bridges can be especially icy as the wind and air can get under the road as well as over it.
– If you’re reversing downhill you will want to brake with your foot, but this can lock the front wheels, reducing steering ability. Consider using the parking brake gently if it works on the rear wheels (most cars do). You will then slow down but you will also be able to steer. This is not possible with electrically-operated parking brakes as the car will put it on fully so the wheels will lock and skid. This is also harder to control with a foot-operated parking brake.
– If you have a pre-crash system, keep snow and ice off your car’s radar sensors – they could stop it working correctly.
It’s worth considering fitting cold weather tyres, which dramatically improve a car’s grip and stability on cool road surfaces. However, whether you have winter tyres fitted or not, the driving principles in our tips, above, are the same.
Driving in Rain and on Flooded Roads
– Remember that rain will reduce visibility and increase stopping distance when you’re driving. The AA recommends that you leave double the normal distance between you and the car in front.
– You must also use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, in accordance with the Highway Code.
– Make sure your wipers and lights are working properly and replace blades and bulbs if necessary.
– Should the steering begin to feel unresponsive due to rain or standing water, ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually.
– If the roads are flooded, avoid the deepest water – which is usually by kerbs.
– If the water seems too deep, don’t attempt cross it. Look for an alternative route – it can take as little as two feet of standing water to cause a car to float.
– If you decide to risk crossing through water, drive slowly but keep engine revs high to keep from stalling.
– Be aware of the bow wave from approaching vehicles – RoSPA advises that you operate an informal ‘give way’ procedure with on-coming vehicles.
Driving in Fog
Fog is one of the most dangerous weather conditions as an accident involving one car can quickly involve others if they are driving too close.
– The AA recommends that you follow a three-second rule – leaving a distance of at least three seconds between you and the car in front.
– Use your headlights and fog lights to help visibility.
– At junctions, wind down your window and listen for traffic.
Driving in Strong Winds
Strong winds can catch even the most experienced driver off guard. Expect sudden gusts at any time but particularly on open stretches of road, when passing or on bridges or through gaps in roadside hedges.
If you experience strong winds when driving, hold on tight, and be prepared in case you are blown off course or if another vehicle or debris is blown into your path.
Driving when the Sun is low
In winter, the sun will often sit too low in the sky for your visor to block it. If you are blinded by the glare, reduce your speed. Keeping the inside and outside of your windscreen clean and grease free can also reduce the effect of glare.