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Make sure you’re safe on icy roads: driving in winter

By Marta Moses | Posted February 02, 2019

Snowy and icy conditions can prove a real challenge for drivers. You must be prepared and cautious to stay safe. So we’ve got tips on how to prepare to drive in bad weather, what to do if you get stuck, and a winter checklist of what you should pack when making an icy journey.

Before you set off

  • Ensure you allow plenty of time – you must drive slower when the weather’s bad
  • Give yourself lots of time to de-ice the car and get it started
  • Clear all of the windows
  • Ensure your fuel tank always contains at least a quarter of fuel
  • Plan your route and try to stick to main roads, which are more likely to have been gritted and cleared
  • Never let the air out of your tyres – it’s a myth that it helps you grip. It is just dangerous

Good practice when driving on ice or snow

  • Allow plenty of space between you and the car in front – stopping time dramatically increases in freezing weather
  • Drive slowly downhill in a low gear and try not to brake
  • Always use your brakes very gently
  • Use your headlights, even in the daytime, if the visibility is reduced
  • Only use snow chains when there’s enough snow on the roads (a complete covering of snow), or you’ll risk damaging your wheels and the road

If you get stuck in the snow

  • Straighten the steering wheel and clear the snow from your wheels. You can also place a rug down to give your tyres extra grip. Use a shovel to clear snow away from around your car too
  • If your wheels keep spinning, stop. You may just be digging yourself in deeper
  • If you can’t move – you can wait in the car wrapped up in a blanket with the engine running (just make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked) and don’t run the engine for more than fifteen minutes each hour
  • You can also tie a bright piece of cloth to your car so people know you are there

If your car won’t start

  • Turn off all of the electrics – lights, radio, wipers etc
  • Try to start the engine in short bursts
  • If the engine isn’t starting quickly, wait 30 seconds between each attempt

It’s always a good idea to have your breakdown cover details with you and make sure your mobile phone is charged before heading off. So, if your car doesn’t start, call your breakdown cover company.

Winter driving checklist – essentials to carry with you:

  • A fully charged phone
  • An in-car phone charger or power pack
  • First aid kit
  • A map
  • Sat-nav
  • A rug or material in case your tyres need grip
  • A blanket, rug or sleeping bag
  • Shovel
  • Ice scraper
  • Torch and batteries
  • Snacks – nuts, chocolate, fruit or cereal bars, and a hot drink in a flask
  • Extra screenwash
  • Sunglasses (when it's sunny, this helps with glare – especially when there's snow on the road)
  • A warm winter coat, hat and gloves
  • Waterproofs
  • Sturdy footwear

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