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Tips for driving in the snow

Added: 11 December 2017

Driving in the snow

Winter weather can be both frightening and dangerous when driving, that’s why it’s so important to take extra safety precautions to ensure your journey is as safe as possible.

Here’s what you need to know to stay cautious and be prepared in adverse weather conditions and snow this winter.

What to do before you travel?

First thing’s first, before you’ve even stepped foot out of your house you must plan your journey. You can use a route planner online like Google Maps or if you still prefer the old school methods get yourself a road map and research your journey that way. Avoid areas that are likely to flood or have particularly steep inclines as you may well find yourself stuck!

Next you should think about allowing for more time than you usually do for the journey. This is so you can clear your car windows, mirrors, lights and also your roof before setting off and allow time for travelling at a slower speed than normal.

De-icing your windscreen is essential because it’s illegal to drive without full visibility throughout all of your windows. Use an ice scraper to clear your windows or for even quicker results use de-icing spray. Don’t be tempted to use hot water as this can cause your screen to crack!

Other important checks to make before you set off include: using a high quality screenwash that prevents the water in the tank from freezing over; making sure your wipers are in good working order so you can effectively clear your windscreen in adverse conditions; and checking to see if your tyres have adequate tread on them as poor tyres won’t grip the road when driving on snow or ice. When the weather is really bad you may want to consider using snow socks or snow chains, however knowing which ones to choose isn’t always easy.

Winter tyres, snow chains or socks?

Snow chains

These products give you a helping hand when it comes to challenging the elements but most people are confused as to when they should actually use them. Different conditions require different products so you must ensure you select the right one.

Winter tyres are the alternatives to the standard tyres you see on most common cars. With winter tyres you’ll get more grip than you would normally in conditions such as rain, snow and ice. Although they might improve your car’s performance in bad conditions you may find they will still struggle to perform in deep snow.

This is where snow socks and snow chains come in. Snow socks will give you more grip on snowy roads and are easy to apply and store in your boot in case of an emergency. Snow chains will provide you with the best grip possible when it’s snowing, even in the deep stuff! The down-sides to snow chains however are that they take longer to apply and they must be removed when the snow has cleared from the roads otherwise you risk damaging your car and the roads.

What to have in your car when driving in snow?

Always be prepared and pack for the worst eventualities by equipping your car with necessary items in an emergency kit. You should include...

A high-vis vest so you are visible to other drivers on the road if you break down

A blanket to stay warm,

Food and drink in case you get stuck for a while

First aid kit

A torch

A square of carpet in case you get really stuck in the snow so you can lodge it under your wheels for grip.

How to move off safely

Snow driving

Now you’re prepared and ready to set off, let’s talk you through how to get the car going without wheel spinning yourself in to a snowy abyss.

Set off by accelerating softly and using the low engine revs to begin moving. Once you have made the smallest amount of movement change up to a higher gear as quick as you can. Moving off in a higher gear helps to reduce the slip of wheels.

Now you can get up to a safe speed and maintain it so your stopping distances between you and any cars around you are safe.

What are safe stopping distances in snow?

Stopping distances in the snow are as much as 10 times the normal stopping distance on public roads.

How to control a skid?

If you begin to lose grip in your car, try not to panic and release your foot off the accelerator making sure that the wheels are steering towards the direction you are intending to go at the same time.

If you do find yourself heading in to a skid, steer in to the direction of the skid smoothly – for example if the rear of your car is skidding to the left, steer smoothly to the left. You must never vacate your hands from the steering wheel or slam on your brakes as this takes things out of your control.

If you apply every bit of advice in this article you’ll be prepared as much as possible for any adverse weather on the roads, however, there’s always an element of risk that we can’t control no matter how ready you are. With that in mind then, you must always ask yourself - is the journey really is essential? Can it be avoided until the weather conditions have blown over? There’s no safer way to avoid the adverse conditions than staying away from them altogether!

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