Winter Driving Advice
Motorists need to pay due care and attention on the roads in the winter and be able to adapt to changing conditions. Even the most experienced drivers can find themselves getting into difficulties when the roads are icy.
Ask yourself whether your journey is really necessary.
Before you set off on your journey:
- Make sure your vehicle is in winter roadworthy condition.
- Check that your tyres meet the legal requirements. The legal limit is 1.6mm but in winter at least 3mm is recommended. Tyres that do not have the legal tread will seriously affect your car’s traction and steering.
- Tyre pressures are equally as important as tread depths. Make sure you know what they should be and check regularly to ensure maximum grip.
- Clear your windscreen properly of ice and snow. All round vision is required at all times.
- Keep your windscreen clean. Winter driving is not only about poor weather. In winter time, the low sun can often dazzle drivers and a dirty windscreen will make the effects of low sun worse.
- Check brakes, lights, and oil and washer fluid levels.
- Carry water and de-icer in the car with you.
- If you are going on a longer journey, make sure you bring food, hot drinks, warm blankets and a fully charged mobile phone.
If you must travel in wintry weather remember to:
- Slow down and leave plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front.
- Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels lock, ease off the brakes.
- Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists and always clear all ice and snow off the car windows before setting out.
- Drive slowly on snow in the highest gear possible.
- Never overtake snowploughs or gritting lorries. The drivers have limited visibility, and you are likely to find that the road in front of them is worse that the road behind.
- Do not assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.
- Carry wellingtons or other strong boots and weatherproof clothing in case your have to get out and walk, or push a car.
If you get stuck in snow:
- Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper. Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
- Use a light touch on the accelerator to ease your car out.
- Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.
- Pour sand, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels – or even use your foot mats – to help get traction.
- If you must leave your car, arrange to have it recovered as soon as possible. If you think it is in a place that may pose a danger to other road users, call the police to let them know.
Driving in extreme weather
If it is foggy, raining, snowing or icy, make sure you slow down and keep well back from the vehicle in front of you. Many collisions are caused through not braking in time when the roads are wet or slippery; allow sufficient distance between you and the vehicle in front. Watch out for locations where you may need to drive more carefully, either because of side winds or a greater risk of ice. Look out for:
- Changes in road elevation or exposure.
- Where the road passes under or over a bridge, or where traffic is lighter (e.g. slip roads).
- Bends in the road where there is a greater risk of losing control.
- Roads that may not have been treated
Driving in rain and floods
- When the road is wet it can take twice as long to stop. Slow down and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
- If your vehicle loses grip or 'aquaplanes' on surface water take your foot off the accelerator to slow down. Do not brake or steer suddenly because you have less control of the steering and the brakes.
- Try to avoid driving through surface water as you might flood your engine.
- If you have to drive through floods, drive slowly, use a low gear and try to keep the engine revving at a high rate. Move forward continuously to avoid stalling the engine. When driving an automatic vehicle, engage and hold in a low gear.
- Test your brakes after driving through water; they may be ineffective.
Driving in fog
- Use dipped headlights so that other drivers can see you.
- If it is foggy (less than 100m visibility), switch on your fog lights. Do not forget to turn them off when conditions improve.
- Fog is often patchy so try not to speed up as visibility improves. You could suddenly find yourself back in thick fog further up the road.
Driving in windy weather
Though high-sided vehicles are particularly affected by windy weather, strong winds can also blow other vehicles off course. This can happen on open stretches of road exposed to strong crosswinds, or when passing bridges, high-sided vehicles or gaps in trees.
Above all, in any poor conditions reduce your speed and increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front. Try to avoid harsh braking, acceleration or steering movements as this is more likely to lead to lose of grip.
In extreme conditions, only make the journey if it is absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, allow extra time and make sure someone knows your route. Make sure you have your mobile phone fully charged in case of emergencies and that you carry warm, waterproof clothing with you.
Please have a look at the following bilingual leaflets produced by North Wales Police with helpful advice and tips about keeping your car and belongings safe.