Driving in snow

With the UK grinding to a halt whenever it snows and the continued popularity of driving from Britain to European ski resorts, we thought it might be useful to provide a series of tips on how to drive safely in the snow.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists recommends that the most important thing you can do to minimise the risk of being involved in an accident is to get your speed right. Drive too fast and you risk losing control; drive too slow and you risk losing momentum. When driving on snow it is important to remember to drive so that you don’t need to rely on your brakes when trying to stop on slippery surfaces.

It is important to prepare your vehicle for the winter conditions and plan your journeys around main roads that are more likely to have been gritted. Councils are always more likely to apply grit to roads which are bus routes, if that helps. Before you set off, make sure you have cleared all snow and ice from your windows, mirrors, roof and lights so that you can both see and be seen clearly. Safely driving in the snow is as much about dealing with other road users as it is looking after your own car. Staying alert and watching the behaviour of traffic on both sides of the road is essential and will give you extra time to avoid potential dangers.

When driving on snow the ‘two second’ stopping distance rule should become the ‘ten-second’ rule to allow for the increased distance needed on slippery surfaces and to give you enough time to respond if the car in front has problems. For instance, if the car in front stops then this ten second gap should provide you with enough time to slow to a stop or steadily steer around the obstruction – two seconds won’t be enough. If the car behind you is driving too close, pull over in a safe location and let them past: worrying about them being too close will affect your concentration on the road ahead.

When driving on snow or ice, it is important to brake gently without locking the vehicle’s wheels. If you cause the front wheels to lock you won’t be able to steer any more and the car will continue in a straight line. If you have to use your brakes, apply them gently. Release them and de-clutch if the car starts to skid.

When driving downhill make sure you are already going slowly enough before you start the descent to decrease the necessity for braking. Reduce your speed before you reach the brow of the hill, use a low gear and try to avoid using the brakes. If you are following another vehicle, wait at the top until they have safely cleared the bottom of the hill before setting off. Likewise, when driving uphill you do not want to have to brake on the way up as it may cause you to lose control or momentum and slide back down. Wait until the hill is clear, choose a suitable gear that you won’t need to change and maintain a constant speed.

Driving in deep snow and snow drifts

Snow drifts can occur when high winds blow the snow around and deposit it in more sheltered areas. Because of this, roads bordered with hedges, walls or embankments can easily become filled with snow drifts. Although it can be tempting to try and drive through snow drifts, cars can very easily become beached. If this happens there will be very little weight on the wheels, causing the tyres to spin. You will then need assistance to move the car. We would therefore recommend turning round and finding an alternative route unless you are driving a vehicle with very high ground clearance.

What to do if you get stuck in the snow

Over the last few winters, thousands of drivers have become stranded on roads as a result of dangerous driving conditions.

It is best to prepare for the worst and pack your car with an emergency kit that can help get you out of trouble if you do get stick in the snow. Always pack warm clothing, waterproof shoes, food, water and a mobile phone when travelling in the winter. Keeping a shovel in the boot isn’t a bad idea, either. For a full list on how to prepare your vehicle and additional items to pack please visit our driving in winter page.

If you do become stuck in the snow and want to stay warm by running the engine while you wait for help to arrive, it is important that you check that the exhaust pipe isn’t blocked by snow. If the engine fumes can’t escape, your vehicle could fill with highly toxic carbon monoxide.

For more information on the technology behind the benefits of winter tyres click here or call the national sales team on 0800 028 9000 for advice on choosing the best winter tyres for your vehicle. Alternatively you can buy winter tyres online using the search box above.