Last updated on November 27th, 2021
Freezing temperatures, slippery roads, and low light conditions make for hazardous driving conditions in winter. Underestimating these dangers can be a big mistake. While you cannot control the weather, there are several things you can do to stay safe on the roads while driving in winter.
Getting Your Car Winter Ready
Cars react differently in summer and winter. When out on the road during winter conditions, even the most minor issues can get magnified and can cause serious safety issues. Preparing your car for winter will minimise potential risks and keep you safe on winter roads.
Two important things you should do to get your car winter ready:
- Check the tyres – 1.6mm is the legal minimum tyre tread depth for cars in the UK. However, the AA recommend checking tyres regularly when they reach 3mm, and ideally replacing them before they reach 2mm depth, especially when entering the colder and wetter autumn and winter months.
- Check antifreeze levels – Antifreeze performs multiple functions. It keeps your brakes performing efficiently and also helps with de-icing when required. Check the manufacturers instructions for the recommended mix of antifreeze and water if you’re not using a ready mixed product. Antifreeze should protect your engine from severe damage caused by a cracked or frozen engine block. This can cost so much more to get repaired.
Perform These Essential Tasks Before Heading Out On The Road
As much as you may want to, make it a rule to never just jump into your car and drive off in winter. You might do that any other time of the year, but winter driving calls for more caution. Take a few minutes to perform these essential tasks every morning before heading out:
- De-ice, de-mist, and clean the front windscreen, back window, and side windows, inside and out. Clearing a tiny portion of the windscreen only at the driver’s side of the vehicle is not enough. Limited vision of what’s ahead or around you can increase the risk of a car crash.
- De-ice, de-mist, and clean wing mirrors.
- Clear snow off from the bonnet and roof if your car was parked in the open at night. The snow could fall onto your windscreen while driving and block your view. A few seconds of impaired visibility can be disastrous on a cold winters day, or night.
- Check the fuel gauge. Ideally, you want to be at least a quarter full, preferable more. You do not want to get stranded on a dark night only because you forgot to fuel up.
- Top up the anti-freeze in the radiator and winter additive in the windscreen washer bottles if the levels are too low.
- Check that the wipers are in good working order. Replace wiper blades if they look damaged or worn.
- Make sure all lights and indicators are working properly before you set out. Darker days, falling snow, rain, and fog all make for low visibility conditions. Under these conditions, your vehicle lights and indicators may be the only things that prevent other drivers from crashing into you.
- Clean the front and back vehicle lights. If the roads are really slushy, this is something you should do before every trip.
Yes, all of these tasks can take time but you really cannot afford to skip any item on this list. Every single task contributes to keeping you safe on the roads in winter. On days that you have to leave home, set aside at least a few minutes to perform these safety checks.
You’re Ready To Leave – Do You Have These Winter Essentials With You?
You know the risks of driving in wintery conditions. Even if you take all safety precautions and perform all vehicle checks, things can still go wrong on the road either because of other negligent drivers or because of bad road conditions. You will be glad you have these winter essentials handy in case of any untoward incident when you’re far away from home:
- An extra set of warm clothing
- A set of high-visibility clothing
- A pair of heavy-duty gloves
- Fully charged mobile phone and a phone charger
- Car phone charger
- Torch with spare batteries
- Ice scraper
- Warm blanket
- Flask with warm drink
- Bottle of water
- First-aid kit
- Jump leads
- Emergency warning triangle
Make a checklist of the items listed above and keep it some place prominent. Check the list before departing and ensure that you’ve got everything you need before you head out the door. This is especially important if you have a long drive ahead. It helps to be prepared for any eventuality.
Safety Tips While Driving In Winter
Your driving skills will be put to the ultimate test as you navigate wintry road conditions, low visibility, and rash drivers. Keep these safe driving tips in mind to stay safe out there on the roads in winter:
- When driving on snowy, icy roads, drive slowly and in the highest gear possible to prevent the wheels from spinning. It takes the car longer to stop on icy roads. Driving slowly will give you much-needed extra road space to slow down and stop safely without spinning or crashing into anything.
- Be particularly cautious on bends where there is a higher likelihood of losing control. Manoeuvre carefully and smoothly, avoiding sudden actions such as braking suddenly as this could send your car into a spin.
- If you start to skid, ease off the accelerator and brake gently. Do not step on the brakes suddenly. Different vehicles react differently to skidding depending on whether they are a front or back wheel drive. Check your vehicle handbook and familiarise yourself with the quirks of your car model so you know what to do if your car starts to skid on ice.
- Never use your mobile phone while driving. Have to make an urgent call? Pull up to the side of the road and make your call.
- Listen to travel and weather bulletins and take note of the warnings about the weather and road and traffic conditions along your route. All three things can change over a relative short period of time.
- Last but not least, familiarise yourself with the Highway Code. It has important information on road safety and vehicle rules when driving in bad weather conditions.
Thanks for visiting today and reading our tips to staying safe on the roads while driving in winter.