Winter driving tips

Stay safe this winter

Shorter daylight hours and bad weather can make driving in winter more hazardous so now is a good time to focus on staying safe on the road this winter – whether you are driving on work business or in your own time.

Before winter arrives, check your vehicle

  • has been maintained and serviced. 
  • tyres have a good tread depth (including spare). 
  • cooling system contains anti-freeze at correct strength. 
  • windscreen wipers and washers are working properly. 
  • washer bottles are full and contain a suitable additive to prevent freezing. 
  • carries a screen scraper and de-icer. 
  • battery is in good condition, topped up and fully charged.

Before you drive

Driving in winter weather – falling leaves, snow, ice, wet and cold - creates a great challenge for vehicles and drivers. Keeping yourself and your vehicle in good technical repair reduces your overall chances of any mishap or disaster while driving in winter weather.

In really extreme weather, prepare an emergency kit for your car. Include things that cater for the unexpected - what would you need if you found yourself stranded miles from help during a snow storm? Include things like warm clothing, boots, gloves or mittens, flashlight with fresh batteries, blankets, and fresh first-aid supplies.

In extreme conditions, ask yourself

  • is your journey necessary?
  • have you checked weather forecasts and road conditions and carefully considered the advice given?
  • have you got a full tank of fuel?
  • does anyone know your destination and expected time of arrival?
  • have you got warm clothing, hot drinks, food, wellingtons, a torch and shovel with you?

On the road

Drive according to current road and weather conditions. Whenever driving conditions are less than ideal, it pays to be cautious. Make sure that all windows (front, side and rear) and mirrors are clear and that wipers and defrosters are in good working condition.

Drive slowly with low beam headlights on if visibility is poor, test your brakes frequently, leave a bigger gap and never tailgate. Posted speed limits are for ideal travel conditions. Driving at reduced speeds, in a lower gear and leaving a greater distance from the vehicle in front are the best precautionary measures against any misfortune when the weather conditions deteriorate. Remember, that stopping distances double on slippery roads.

Remember, in ice and snow conditions the action of traffic is needed to help and disperse salt

  • Not all roads are treated. 
  • Stick to main roads which have been salted. 
  • Allow extra time for your journey in wintry weather. 
  • Delaying the time you leave work can help reduce congestion.

When driving in wintry weather conditions, check you

  • are driving with due care appropriate to conditions on both treated and untreated roads. 
  • reduce speed in snow and icy conditions. 
  • are driving in the highest gear possible to help keep control of the vehicle. 
  • avoid harsh braking and acceleration. 
  • maintain a safe stopping distance relative to prevailing conditions. 
  • are using dipped headlights in poor visibility and snow. 
  • use rear fog lights in poor visibility and switch them off when conditions improve. 
  • are watching out for other road users including motor and pedal cycles, pedestrians and children playing.

If the worst happens and you get into trouble

  • do not panic 
  • stay with your vehicle if possible until help arrives 
  • if you have to leave your vehicle make yourself visible to other road users 
  • if you are forced to abandon your vehicle give local police the details (telephone 101) and park in such a way as to ensure you are not obstructing Winter Maintenance vehicles trying to treat the roads. Remember, a gritter is twice the width of a car.

For more winter driving advice visit