Driving in snow and icy conditions presents many hazards and dangers that can lead to drivers becoming stranded or getting involved in accidents on the road. If you’re planning to drive during the snowy weather, then here is everything that you need to know to stay safe when travelling.
• Check the forecast before starting a journey, try to avoid travelling in bad weather
• Make sure antifreeze is topped up with a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water
• Clear your windscreen inside and out
• Clear snow from the roof to avoid it falling onto the windscreen and blocking your view (did you know that this could see you getting a fine and up to 3 points on your licence?)
• Check wiper blades and damaged or worn blades
• Make sure all lights are working and lenses are clear
• Keep number plates clear of snow and dirt
• Keep your fuel topped up – keep at least a quarter of a tank in case of any unexpected delays
• Plan journeys on major roads, which are more likely to be cleared and gritted
• Don’t drive with a cold, or if you’re feeling unwell and on any medicine that could make you drowsy
• Check your tyres have at least 3mm of tread Read more: Are you tyre-safe? Read our checklist.
• Do not let air out of your tyres to get more grip – this is a myth, it is unsafe and will damage your tyres and wheels
• Instead, use winter tyres or all-season tyres – these are made from a special rubber that gives better grip in cold, wet conditions
• Make sure you have an emergency kit in case of any unexpected delays or accidents in bad conditions
• Useful things to include in your winter emergency kit: ice scrapper, de-icer spray, torch and spare batteries, reflective triangle, First-Aid kit, snow chains, snow shovel, satnav, fully charged mobile phone and in-car mobile phone charger, jump leads, snacks, water, shovel, warm clothing, Wellington or other boots, blanket.
Adapt your driving style
When driving in poor weather conditions, it is imperative to:
- Drive smoothly, and avoid sudden acceleration or braking
- Reduce your speed
- Make sure you leave sufficient distance between you and the vehicle in front of you
If you are travelling abroad, make sure you check the rules of the countries you will be visiting.
For example, in the mountainous regions of France, Italy or Switzerland, you must carry snow chains – and failing to do so could result in a hefty fine. What’s more, if involved in an accident, it could automatically be considered to be your fault. Make sure you know how to fit them before you actually need them!
Winter tyres are mandatory in certain countries (only a full set, you mustn’t install one pair only), and the minimum tyre tread depth can vary (typically, in Austria, it must be 4mm minimum between 1st November and 15th April, or outside this period when there is snow or ice on the roads).
In summary, driving in the winter requires to be prepared. It is always good to check the latest local regulations of the countries you are planning to travel, beforehand and to make sure you are equipped accordingly.
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The information contained in this article is valid at the time of writing but doesn’t provide a full, comprehensive list of requirements, particularly when it comes to laws and regulations in other countries. Please, visit the DVLA website for guidance.