Driving in Ice and Snow

Some handy tips on safety when driving in the UK in winter, with useful information and links to essential weather and traffic condition websites...

Winter driving in the UK can involve snow and ice conditions. It is worth remembering that vehicles will be affected by the cold and snow, and drivers should be well-prepared.

Before setting off, check traffic conditions.

There are a few precautions that should be taken:

  • Even if there is no snow on the road, be aware of the temperatures. Black ice can linger all day in sheltered places, causing hazardous driving conditions. If the temperature is below freezing, ice may melt if exposed to the sun; ice that is not exposed to the sun will not melt even though the temperature may be above freezing
  • Plan the route and check the weather before leaving
  • Also check for wind, in exposed areas the wind can blow enough snow across the road to close the route without it actually snowing
  • Try to keep the fuel tank full; if a road is closed and a diversion is necessary this can be a lengthy extension to the trip
  • Special winter tyres are not compulsory in the UK, but recommended in remote areas where winter conditions can be severe. Tyres with at least 3mm of tread are recommended in the winter, properly inflated. More information on snow tyres in the UK is available from the AA
  • Always reduce speed in bad weather and use a low gear when heading downhill, this is to avoid skidding which can happen when using the brakes. Note that stopping times can be up to ten times more in snow and ice conditions
  • Try to park indoors if possible. If not, park facing downhill leaving the car in gear and with the handbrake off, as it can freeze
  • Lift windscreen wipers away from the window
  • Remember where the car is parked, a car is not easy to identify under a metre of snow
  • Clean off all the snow from the car (including off the roof) before attempting to drive off. Use a scraper to get any ice off the windows
  • Keeping the windscreen clean (inside and out) avoids unnecessary dazzles from the low winter sun
  • Ensure sufficient levels of anti-freeze/coolant are present in car radiator
  • Extra equipment to keep in the car during winter season: a torch, snow-shovel, a tow rope, a blanket, snacks, beverages, warm clothes and a small bag of sand (or an old rug) in case the car gets stuck in the snow