Winter - Respect the Elements
The British winter is unpredictable. Bad weather can strike suddenly so the best advice when severe weather hits is to stay off the road. If you must drive, make sure you are prepared for the conditions.
Plan Your Journey
During wintry weather conditions
- Ask yourself - is your journey absolutely essential?
- Check the local and national weather forecasts.
- Listen to local and national radio for travel information.
- Tell someone at your destination what time you expect to arrive.
- Make sure you are equipped with warm clothes, food, boots and a torch. In snowy conditions, take a spade.
- Clear your windows and mirrors before you set out and carry a screen scraper and de-icer.
If you get into trouble
- Do not use a mobile phone while driving. Stop somewhere safe or ask a passenger to make the call.
- On a motorway, it is best to use a roadside emergency telephone, because the breakdown/emergency services will be able to locate you easily. If you have to use a mobile phone, make sure you know your location from the numbers on the marker posts on the side of the hard shoulder.
- Abandoned vehicles can hold up rescue vehicles and snowploughs. To ensure that the road is cleared as quickly as possible, stay with your vehicle until help arrives.
- If you have to leave your vehicle to get help, make sure other drivers can see you.
In winter it is even more important to check you vehicle is well maintained and serviced.
- Keep the lights, windows and mirrors clean and free from ice and snow.
- Keep your battery fully charged.
- Add anti-freeze to the radiator and winter additive to the windscreen washer bottles.
- Make sure wipers and lights are in good working order.
- Check that tyres have plenty of tread depth and are maintained at the correct pressure.
Adjust Your Driving to the Conditions
- Hail, heavy snow and rain reduce visibility.
- Use dipped headlights and reduce your speed.
When Roads Are Icy or Slushy
- It can take ten times longer to stop in icy conditions than on a dry road. Drive slowly, allowing extra room to slow down and stop.
- Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin.
- Manoeuvre gently, avoiding harsh braking and acceleration.
- To brake on ice or snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use the brake pedal gently.
- If you start to skid, ease off the accelerator but do not brake suddenly.
Watch Out for Fog
- Watch out for fog - it drifts rapidly and is often patchy.
- In foggy conditions, drive very slowly using dipped headlights.
- Use fog-lights if visibility is seriously reduced, but remember to switch them off when visibility improves.
- Don't hang on to the tail-lights of the vehicle in front. This gives you a false sense of security and means you may be driving too close.
- Don't speed up suddenly, even if it seems to be clearing. You can suddenly find yourself back in thick fog.
- Dazzle from winter sun can be dangerous. Keep a pair of sunglasses handy.
In wet weather, stopping distances will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads. This is because your tyres have less grip on the road. In wet weather:
- You should keep well back from the vehicle in front. This will increase your ability to see and plan ahead.
- If steering becomes unresponsive, it probably means the water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road. Ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually.
- The rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen.
- Don't attempt to cross if the water seems too deep.
- Drive slowly in first gear but keep the engine speed high by slipping the clutch - this will stop you from stalling.
- Avoid the deepest water, usually near the kerb.
- Remember - test your brakes when you are through the flood before you drive at normal speed.
Take Care Around Winter Maintenance Vehicles
The Highways Agency, an executive agency of the Department for Transport, is responsible for the motorways and trunk roads in England. We aim to reduce delays and accidents during wintry weather conditions by pre-treating clearing motorways and trunk roads to prevent the formation of ice and snow, and by clearing snow from carriageways and hard shoulders as soon as conditions permit. Local Authorities are responsible for this work on the local road network.
Salting and Snow Ploughing
Take care when travelling behind winter service vehicles. Drivers of vehicles such as salt spreaders and snowploughs take all reasonable precautions to protect the safety of other road users.
Salting vehicles travel at speeds of up to 40 mph spreading salt across all lanes of the carriageway. Drivers are advised to maintain a safe distance behind them. Do not attempt to overtake.
Snow ploughing can throw up irregular amounts of snow that may be a hazard to vehicles. Drivers are advised to maintain a safe distance behind vehicles and not to attempt to overtake.
Roadworks on Motorways and Major Roads
The Highways Agency (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) will be working on a number of major maintenance schemes and improvements on motorways and trunk roads in England over the winter months and drivers are advised to plan their journeys accordingly.
If you have to drive through roadworks, please take extra care.
- Keep to the speed limit - it is there for your safety.
- Get into the correct lane in good time - don't keep switching.
- Concentrate on the road ahead, not the roadworks.
- Be alert for works traffic leaving or entering roadworks.
- Keep a safe distance - there could be queues in front.
- Observe all signs - they are there to help you.
Change the Way You Drive
Stopping Distances in Winter
- When roads are slippery it will take longer to stop. Up to 10 times longer.
- So, drop your speed, and give yourself more time to slow down and stop.
- Drive with care even if roads have been treated.
Do the Right Thing in an Emergency!
If your vehicle starts to skid:
- Depress the clutch. Do not brake!
- Turn the steering wheel into the direction of the skid.
- When the vehicle straightens, steer along the road.
Driving Through Ice and Snow
- Check for snow on the roof of the vehicle before you drive off. It can slip down over the windscreen and obscure your view.
- If your tyres are making virtually no noise this could be a sign you’re driving on ice.
- If your vehicle skids depress the clutch and turn the steering wheel into the direction of the skid. When the vehicle straightens steer along the road. Don’t brake – it will just lock up your wheels and you’ll skid further.