Motoring News — 21 December 2011
Winter Driving Tips from UCC

As we enter the wettest and coldest few months of the year, we advise all drivers to take special care in what can often be treacherous conditions. The British winter is unpredictable – bad weather can strike suddenly, so the best advice when severe weather hits is to listen to the local traffic reports and make an informed decision.

Remember: If the weather seems too bad for a journey to be completed safely, then a meeting can always be re-arranged. An accident can’t.

Vehicle Condition

In winter it is even more important to check that your vehicle is well maintained and serviced.

Adequate tread depth is essential for grip in wet conditions, and drivers who fail to ensure this are not only risking their own lives, but also those of other road users. The tyre tread helps to disperse water when driving in rain and sharp edges to the tread block help provide grip on ice and snow. UK law requires that tyres should have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre surface, and around the tyre’s entire circumference.

  • Keeping your car in good working order for the winter is essential. Many garages offer a ‘winter check’ which is often free, covering the vehicle’s fluid levels, antifreeze, brakes and tyres.
  • Keep the lights, windows and mirrors clean and free from ice and snow
  • Keep your battery fully charged
  • Monitor fluid levels including engine coolant, antifreeze, oil and brake fluid, If required add anti-freeze to the radiator and winter additive to the windscreen washer bottles
  • Make sure wipers and lights are in good working order
  • Check that tyres have plenty of tread depth and are maintained at the correct pressure

Journey Planning

  • Check the local and national weather forecasts
  • Listen to local and national radio for travel information
  • Tell someone at your destination what time you expect to arrive
  • Clear your windows and mirrors before you set out and carry a screen scraper and de-icer

If You Need Assistance

  • Refer to your company procedure in your driver handbook
  • Do not use a mobile phone while driving. Stop somewhere safe or ask a passenger to make the call
  • On a motorway, it is best to use a roadside emergency telephone, because the breakdown/emergency services will be able to locate you easily. If you have to use a mobile phone, make sure you know your location from the numbers on the marker posts on the side of the hard shoulder
  • Abandoned vehicles can hold up rescue vehicles and snowploughs. To ensure that the road is cleared as quickly as possible, stay with your vehicle until help arrives
  • If you have to leave your vehicle to get help, make sure other drivers can see you

Ice and Slush

  • Adjust Your Driving Style When Roads Are Icy Or Slushy
  • Make use of vehicle winter settings (gearbox)
  • Be aware of additional noise confirming that traction and / or stability systems may be operating on the car
  • It can take ten times longer to stop in icy conditions than on a dry road, drive slowly, allowing extra room to slow down and stop
  • Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin
  • Manoeuvre gently, avoiding harsh braking and acceleration
  • To brake on ice or snow without locking your wheels, allow your speed to fall and use the brake pedal gently
  • If you start to skid, ease off the accelerator but do not brake suddenly

Watch Out For Fog

  • Watch out for fog – it drifts rapidly and is often patchy
  • In foggy conditions, drive very slowly using dipped headlights
  • Use fog-lights if visibility is seriously reduced, but remember to switch them off when visibility improves
  • Don’t hang on to the tail-lights of the vehicle in front. This gives you a false sense of security and means you may be driving too close
  • Don’t speed up suddenly, even if it seems to be clearing. You can suddenly find yourself back in thick fog

Winter Sun

  • Dazzle from winter sun can be dangerous. Keep a pair of sunglasses handy

Rain and Flooded Roads

In wet weather, stopping distances can be up to double those required for stopping on dry roads. This is because your tyres have less grip on the road. In wet weather:

  • You should keep well back from the vehicle in front. This will increase your ability to see and plan ahead
  • If the vehicle aquaplanes, it probably means the water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road. Maintain speed and steering until you emerge from the puddle.
  • The rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen
  • Don’t attempt to cross if the water seems too deep
  • Drive slowly in first gear but keep the engine speed high by slipping the clutch – this will stop you from stalling
  • Avoid the deepest water, usually near the kerb
  • Remember – test your brakes when you are through the flood before you drive at normal speed

Salting/Gritting And Snow Ploughing

Take care when travelling behind winter service vehicles. Drivers of vehicles such as salt spreaders and snowploughs take all reasonable precautions to protect the safety of other road users. Salting vehicles travel at speeds of up to 40 mph spreading salt across all lanes of the carriageway. Snow ploughing can throw up irregular amounts of snow that may be a hazard to vehicles. Drivers are advised to maintain a safe distance behind vehicles and not to attempt to overtake.

Not every journey is essential but if you really must travel in severe weather, check your vehicle before you set out; make sure you have warm clothing and a mobile phone with you and check local weather and traffic reports before leaving.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Ultimate Car Control 01344 751669

Related Articles


About Author


(1) Reader Comment

  1. The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it.