How to drive safely in snowy conditions
Over the past few weeks, storms have battered the UK, and now gritters are out in force on the road network as the temperatures have plummeted and snow has begun to fall.
Driving conditions at this time of year are easily some of the most challenging we face in the UK and failing to take on the weather without the right care and attention can leave yourself and other drivers at risk. Here are our tips for staying safe on the road.
There’s never too much preparation
The most crucial aspect of being safe on the roads, especially in winter conditions, is preparation.
Before setting off for the day, de-icing your car is key. Frozen windows mean poor visibility, so clear as much ice and snow as you can with a de-icing spray or scraper to clear your view.
It’s also worth packing a winter driving kit, too. This doesn’t have to be apocalypse-proof, but it’s a good idea to keep some essentials in your car, such as a high-visibility jacket, snow grips for shoes, a torch, emergency snacks and a power bank for your mobile devices in case you do end up stranded on the roads.
If you’re heading into seriously harsh conditions, it could be worth carrying a shovel to clear snow and a rug to lay under your tyres for extra grip when you stop, while tyre chains can be a useful addition to keep moving in deeper snow.
Snowy roads are a different ball game to the rest of the year and driving styles must be adapted for the conditions.
Traction is the big factor here — slippery conditions mean less grip on the roads, meaning any excessive inputs on the controls could spell disaster.
Acceleration, braking and steering must be done gently to avoid wheel spin, locking brakes and sliding. Staying in a high gear can also help maximise traction.
Also remember that speed limits aren’t targets, so you should always drive at a pace safe for the conditions you’re in and at speeds you feel comfortable — even if that means travelling slower than usual.
Visibility is key
Although de-icing your car is key to maximise visibility, it’s just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to ensuring a clear view in snowy conditions.
Checking your bulbs before every journey is a quick but crucial task, and it’s worth carrying spares in case a light goes out, as being seen by other motorists is just as crucial as being able to see where you’re going.
Fog lights can be used if visibility is severely reduced but remember to switch them off in traffic or brighter conditions to avoid dazzling other drivers.
Take charge of your battery
Car batteries operate less effectively in cold temperatures — far from ideal in the conditions we demand the most from them.
Keeping your battery charged is key and long drives are the best way to generate power. Short drives can be heavily draining on power, so it’s worth avoiding quick trips if possible. Turning off lights, wipers and heating when not needed is also essential to avoid excessive battery use.
In addition, it’s worth investing in jump leads in case your battery does go flat and refuses to start your car at all.
Avoid driving if possible
The best way to stay safe in difficult driving conditions is not to get behind the wheel at all. If weather warnings are severe, it’s best to avoid trips in your car unless absolutely necessary.
If you don’t have much experience or confidence driving in difficult conditions, it may also be wise to ask a more capable family member or friend to drive if you must travel by car.
Should you get behind the wheel, always remember to take extra caution, as well as allowing more time and space for other road users who may not be as prepared for the conditions.