12 Winter Driving Safety Tips
Originally uploaded on December 21, 2020
Familiarising yourself with winter driving safety tips will help you protect yourself and others when the temperature drops. Driving in winter can present many challenges, including snowy and icy conditions, that you need to prepare for.
So, whether you’re a new or experienced driver, picking up some more winter driving advice is never a bad thing. As they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
12 Winter Driving Safety Tips
1. Check your car before any long journey
Make sure to do the basic checks before any long journey, it’s a good habit to get into throughout the year but especially during winter as the adverse conditions can have a greater impact on your vehicle. Some of the simple checks you can do to make sure your vehicle is winter ready include:
- checking your oil levels
- checking your coolant levels
- looking for signs of wear and tear on wiper blades
- managing your screen wash levels
Top Tip: Ensure that you have at least half a tank of petrol before you set off on any journey in wintery conditions.
2. Winter-ready tyres
Tyres with good grip are crucial when dealing with icy and rainy conditions. That’s why it is essential that you check your vehicle’s tyre pressure. Having the incorrect tyre pressure can cause a number of issues including reduced fuel efficiency; the rolling resistance of tyres increases when they are under-inflated resulting in more fuel being used to make them turn.
It is equally as important to check the tread of each tyre (including the spare). By law, the tread on your tyres should be at least 1.6mm, but a 3mm is recommended for winter.
3. Allow extra time for your journey
An important yet often overlooked winter driving tip is allowing extra time for your journey. If the roads are icy or it’s snowing, raining, hailing or foggy, you need to reduce your speed and increase the distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. As a result, you can assume your journey time will be longer than normal. Leave earlier than you normally would so you’re not late or tempted to put your foot down.
The Highway Code states that you should allow at least a four-second gap between you and the vehicle in front of you on wet roads and an even greater gap on icy roads.
4. Leave time to de-ice your vehicle before you start your trip
Driving with snow or ice on your vehicle under reduced visibility can potentially be a criminal offence, so allow yourself enough time each morning to de-ice your car properly. Use a scraper and de-icer solution to do this.
5. Look after your engine
Breaking down when it’s wintery outside is arguably the worst time of the year for your vehicle to fail. You can tackle engine wear and tear by using premium fuels (such as BP Ultimate or Shell V Power Premium Oils) which help to keep your engine clean and working more efficiently, thus reducing the risk of unplanned maintenance or breakdowns.
6. Keep an eye on the weather forecast
Winter weather is often unpredictable so it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast and plan your journey in advance, making sure to have an alternative route ready just in case. Most importantly, be prepared to cancel your trip if the weather conditions are too severe – it’s not worth the risk.
7. Use major roads when possible
An important winter driving safety tip is to use major roads wherever possible as they’re more likely to be cleared of snow and gritted.
8. Use a good-quality screenwash
You need to make sure your screenwash is suitable for freezing conditions! It’s recommended to use a good-quality screenwash that can withstand temperatures of at least -35 degrees Celsius. If you don’t, your windscreen wipers may not function properly which can be dangerous in extreme weather conditions.
9. Pack your sunglasses
Wearing sunglasses in the middle of winter may feel counterintuitive, but your sunglasses can help you to stay safe when driving in winter. If there’s snow on the ground and it’s sunny, the sun’s light will bounce off of the bright, white snow which can impact your vision. Similarly, with the sun low in the winter sky, you may find it difficult to see properly on your journey without adequate eye protection.
10. Prepare for the worst
Another winter weather driving tip that is often overlooked is preparing for the worst. Nobody likes to think about the possibility of breaking down in harsh weather, but if it does happen to you, you’ll be thankful for thinking ahead. We recommend having the following equipment in your vehicle:
- high-vis vest or jacket for visibility on the road
- blanket, hot water bottle and layers for warmth
- waterproof boots
- food and drink
- portable phone charger (with a full battery!)
- jump leads if you need to jumpstart your battery
- warning triangle
- contact details for a breakdown company
- ice scraper and de-icer
- torch and spare batteries for visibility in the dark
- first aid kit
This is not an exhaustive list, and you should consider every eventuality before embarking on a journey in wintery conditions. You should always follow local travel guidance.
11. Know which headlights to use
Understanding your headlights and when to use them is an essential winter driving safety tip. Foggy conditions are typical of winter weather and if the fog is severely impairing your visibility, you should switch on your fog lights. You MUST switch off your fog lights once visibility improves otherwise you risk dazzling other drivers and obscuring your brake lights.
With late sunrises and early sunsets, you should also know about using headlights in the dark more generally. You may come across stretches of road that are unlit or very poorly lit. In these instances, you should switch on your full beam headlights. However, if another vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian coming towards you, you must turn your full beam off to prevent dazzling them.
12. Clean your windscreen thoroughly
Maintaining a clean windscreen is another crucial piece of winter driving advice. A dirty windscreen can reduce visibility which is particularly dangerous in adverse weather. You should use a good quality screenwash that functions well in cold weather.
You must also check your windscreen wipers to see if they need replacing. If your wipers aren't cleaning streaks of water from the windscreen or are leaving rubber marks on the glass, they probably need replacing. Likewise, if the rubber is coming loose or tearing, you need to switch them out.
Top Tip: Lift up your windscreen wipers at the end of the day to prevent them from freezing onto the glass.
Now that you've covered the outside of your windscreen, you need to focus on the inside. The inside of your windscreen can build up a layer of grease and grime which will impact your visibility. A dirty windscreen can also increase dazzling effects, so you should clean it with high-quality glass cleaner and a microfibre cloth.
Winter Driving Safety Tips for Employees
As a fleet manager, you have a duty of care for your drivers and you need to prioritise fleet safety. As part of your health and safety policy, you should provide winter driving safety tips for your employees to learn and relearn every year.
Make sure your drivers understand:
- how to operate the vehicle in wintery conditions, particularly snow and ice
- what they should do in the event of a breakdown or emergency
- what vehicle checks they need to carry out before each journey
- what equipment they should keep in their vehicle at all times during winter
- how to find the closest fuel garage to keep their vehicle regularly topped up
- what they should do if local guidance advises against travel
- how their compliance with winter driving safety policies is monitored
- what the repercussions are for failing to comply