Weather Conditions & Winter Driving
Drivers should always be aware of their surroundings, weather conditions and how this can affect them and others around them, and ensure that they’re driving in line with the conditions as set out within the Highway Code.
When in doubt slow down, evaluate the situation and pay particular attention to the actions of other road users and act accordingly.
Winter Driving Policy
Driving in the winter is very different to other times of the year. Adverse weather and longer periods of darkness makes driving more hazardous. Sometimes conditions can be extreme. In very bad conditions, avoid driving completely, unless you absolutely have to make the journey and driving is the only option.
Different weather conditions create different hazards throughout the winter and in different areas of the country at different times. A single journey may take us into very different weather, road and traffic conditions, so we need to be prepared for each one. This means that we need to adapt the way we drive to the conditions.
Prepare for your journey
Listen to local/national weather broadcasts and travel bulletins – especially for the areas you will be driving through. As conditions can change rapidly, check them regularly and be prepared to change your plans if conditions on your route worsen.
If conditions are very bad, and the emergency services are recommending that people don’t travel, then avoid making your journey unless it is absolutely necessary. Can you postpone your trip? Can you travel by other means, or avoid the need for the journey completely by using the mobile phone or email?
Of course, what’s ‘essential’ to one person may not be to another; we each have to make our own decisions according to our circumstances. But, try to be realistic about which journeys are essential and which ones could be postponed. If you decide you really must travel:
- Let someone know where you are going and what time you hope to arrive, so that they can raise the alarm if you get into difficulties.
- Plan alternative routes in case your main choice(s) becomes impassable.
- Carry warm clothing, blankets, drinks, a torch, a shovel and suitable footwear.
- Keep your fuel tank near to full to ensure that you do not run out.
- Make sure you have a fully charged mobile phone, so you can call for help or alert someone if you’re delayed – it could be a long walk to a pay phone.
Prepare your vehicle
It is a good idea to have your vehicle fully serviced before winter starts and have the anti-freeze tested. Basic checks to carry out throughout the winter would include ensuring,
- Tyre pressures are checked at least once a week (all the tyres including spare).
- Tyre condition, tread depth. Never let tyres drop below the regulation tread depth of 1.6mm.
- Lights are clean and in working order.
- Windscreen is clean and wipers working properly.
- Fluids are kept topped up, especially windscreen wash (to correct concentration to prevent freezing), anti- freeze, oil and sufficient de-icer.
- Battery is fully charged.
- Brakes are working well.
Driving in snow and ice
- De-ice the vehicle properly – make sure no snow can fall back onto the windscreen.
- Stopping distances are 10 times longer so take this into account.
- Snow-covered boots will slip on the pedals – wear dry shoes.
- Select second gear when pulling away, ease your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.
- When driving downhill, choose third or fourth gear to prevent skidding.
- Apply brakes gently. Release them and de-clutch if the car skids.
- If driving an automatic, select ‘2’ mode which limits gear changes and makes you less reliant on the brakes.
- Reduce your speed. The chances of skidding are much greater and your stopping distance will increase massively.
- Only travel at a speed at which you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear. Speed limits are the maximum in ideal conditions; in difficult conditions, they can often be too fast.
- Always reduce your speed smoothly and in plenty of time on slippery surfaces.
If you get stuck in snow
If you get stuck in snow, revving your engine to try to power out of the rut will just make the rut worse. Instead, move your vehicle slowly backwards and forwards out of the rut using the highest gear you can. If this doesn’t work, you may have to ask a friendly passer-by for a push or get your shovel out.
If you get caught in a snow drift
Don’t leave your vehicle call your breakdown service or the emergency services and let help come to you. Don’t run the engine to keep warm
Rain reduces your ability to see and greatly increases the distance required to slow down and stop. Remember that you will need about TWICE your normal braking distance. Use windscreen wipers, washers and dipped headlights; drive smoothly and plan your moves in plenty of time. On flooded roads avoid the deepest water – which is usually near the kerb.
Don’t attempt to cross if the water seems too deep. If you are not sure of the water’s depth, look for an alternative route.
Avoid driving in fog unless your journey is absolutely necessary.
Fog is one of the most dangerous weather conditions. An accident involving one vehicle can quickly involve many others, especially if they are driving too close to one another.