Although snow is pretty to look at and fun to play in, it’s much less pleasant when you have to drive in snowy conditions. When there’s been a heavy snowfall or it’s currently snowing, your best bet is to stay home and not travel in it at all if possible. You may not always have a choice though, so here are some tips for driving safely in the snow.
Preparing to Drive in the Snow
If possible, it’s a good idea to get winter tyres fitted when the temperatures drop so that you’re prepared ahead of time. And it’s even more important to do regular vehicle safety checks in winter to ensure your car won’t let you down.
If you must drive, plan your route to avoid steep hills and to stay along main roads as much as possible. Avoid back roads as they are less likely to be cleared or gritted and if you do get stranded you’re more likely to get help quickly on a main road.
Make sure your screenwash is topped up to clear any gunk from the road off your windscreen. Use a screenwash with the lowest freezing point you can find and follow directions on the bottle to dilute it correctly. Clear any snow off your windows completely, as well as off your bonnet. If there’s a lot of snow on the roof you should clear this too so it doesn’t come off and cause a problem for other drivers behind you.
It’s also a good idea to prepare for the worst case scenario by packing an emergency kit in your car before setting off. This could include warm clothing, a blanket/rug, a small shovel, some rope for towing, a torch with batteries, a first aid kit, food and drink, de-icer and/or a scraper, hi-vis clothing, a warning triangle and welly boots amongst other things. Don’t drive in wellington boots though, as they make it more difficult to feel the pedals under your feet. You should also make sure your mobile phone is fully charged before you set off.
Drive slowly and smoothly
Accelerate and brake very slowly when driving in snow or icy conditions, and take corners slowly too. Accelerating, stopping and turning all take longer on icy roads than on dry ones so make sure you give yourself enough time. Following distances should be increased to 8-10 seconds.
It’s best to avoid stopping altogether when possibly and don’t try to power up hills as you’re likely to spin your wheels on snow-covered roads. Try to get some inertia going before you get to the hill and avoid stopping while going up a hill if at all possible.
Driving in higher gears can also help your wheels to grip better, as they’re less likely to spin with less power. Pulling away in second gear instead of first can also help. Just be careful not to pick up too much speed, as this is easier in higher gears even when you’re not pressing the accelerator.
Stay alert in Icy Conditions
In snowy or icy conditions you need to be even more alert than usual, as other cars can come at you from any direction if they start sliding. You also need to give yourself more as much time as possible to react so that you aren’t tempted to hit the accelerator or brake. Your view of the road ahead might be obscured by falling snow too, which already reduces the amount of time you have to respond to any obstacles up ahead.
If you do slip or slide a bit, don’t panic and hit the brakes as this will only make it worse. Ease off the accelerator gently and straighten up your steering to give the tyres a chance to regain their grip. If the back of the car begins to slide, steer into the same direction of the skid and ease off of the accelerator and brake.
If you start sliding backwards down a hill, turn your steering to full lock and apply the handbrake to lock the rear wheels. The turned front wheels will build up a bank of snow to help slow your descent.
We hope these tips help you stay safe this winter