Snow and Ice Driving Tips

We've had our first real signs that winter is beginning to settle in and it's made for treacherous roads in the early mornings and late at night.

It's almost impossible not to travel when the weather is bad with work, dropping off children and shopping all requiring travelling of some form and more often than not it will be in the car. With temperatures dropping below freezing overnight lots of us are waking up to icy cars, drive ways and routes to where we need to go.

Main roads, motorways and most busy areas will have benefited from road gritting and snow clearance but it's inevitable that you will at some point have to drive through slushy snow, over obvious patches of ice or worse still over the black ice that can't be seen.

We all have a story about a time when we had a bad experience driving in the snow and there's nothing more upsetting or unnerving than losing control of a vehicle. With that in mind I decided to draft up some advice and tips for driving in the winter as someone who drives on lots of icy back roads and has had the displeasure of being involved in an ice related accident.

The first you should think about is preparation...failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

    * Get up earlier than you would normally to give yourself time to prepare the car for your trip.

    * You should use de-icer and a scraper to clear the windows of snow and ice. You should never set of with just a tiny part of the windscreen cleared.

    * Check the roof for snow and clear it off to stop it slipping down the rear or front window which could obscure your view whilst driving.

    * If you find it difficult to put the key into the lock then you should heat up the key with a cigarette lighter and it should unlock more easily.

    * Once inside the car, if it has air conditioning you should turn it on and set the fan speed to high and on the highest heat to help demist the windscreen and thaw any ice that could be on the inside the windscreen.

    * You should always carry a scraper and de-icer just in case things freeze over whilst you're away from home. You should also carry a mobile phone - fully charged, a car charger for it (easily bought from eBay), a torch, extra clothes, blankets, some food jump leads, a tow rope, a hazard warning triangle and something for shovelling snow should you get snuck. If you end up breaking down or getting stuck like thousands of motorist last winter then you'll be very grateful that you packed them.

    * You should also ensure you have a dry pair of shoes in the car. Driving with snow covered, wet shoes will cause slipping on the pedals.

    * You should always put safety before punctuality when the weather is bad. Employers accept there is an inevitability of you being late when caught up by bad weather. If you're worried you can always call in before you leave for work to inform them of your possible lateness due to the poor weather.

    * You should plan your journey around major roads which are much more likely to have been gritted. However this isn't always possible so the following are tips to driving in the snow and ice.

Snow and Ice driving tips

    * When driving along if you no longer hear much noise from the tyres, that could be a sign that you're driving on ice so be cautious and remain alert.

    * If you find your vehicle skidding you should depress the clutch and turn the steering wheel into the direction of the skid. Steering away from the skid is the temptation but this will definitely make your vehicle spin. When the vehicle straightens steer along the road. You should also resist the temptation to hit the brakes, doing so will lock up your wheels and you will find yourself skidding further.

    * Stopping distances can double in the wet weather but in the snow and ice the distances can become ten times longer. You should give other motorist plenty of space and if someone is driving too close to the back of you let them know by flashing your hazard lights.

    * Manoeuvring gently is the key to safe driving in the winter.

    * Reducing your speed significantly reduces the likelihood of skidding. Too much power in a lower gear is often a cause of skids on snow and ice.

    * You should pull away in second gear, easing your foot off the clutch slowly to avoid any wheel spin. Second gear provides less pull and will reduce the chance of wheel spinning greatly.

    * Try to maintain at a constant speed choosing the most suitable and highest gear to avoid having to change down for inclines.

    * When driving down hills, select third or fourth gear which should help prevent skidding if you're cautious with your speed.

    * You should always feather the brakes lightly and never give them a long press. Over braking is a common causing of losing control on ice and snow.

    * Should you get stuck in snow, straighten the wheels with the steering wheel and clear the snow from around the tyres. Put an old rug or sack in front of the driving wheels to give them something to grip onto. Once you're on the move try to avoid the temptation to stop until you're on less snow covered ground where your tyres can get a better grip on the surface.

Remember to take extra care on roads without gritting and snow clearance, it's just not worth the risk. If you don't think it's safe to travel then you shouldn't.