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Winter Road Safety

Conditions on the road during winter can sometimes provide additional challenges for motorists.


Driving through ice and snow

Your stopping distance is increased ten times when driving in snow and ice.

• Select second gear when pulling away, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin

It is not always obvious that the road is icy. Look for clues such as ice on the pavement or on your windscreen. If your tyres are making virtually no noise on the road, it could be a sign that you are driving on ice

• Do not brake heavily – it will just lock your wheels and you will skid further, consider changing to a lower gear
• Clear any snow on the roof of the vehicle before you drive off. It can slip down over the windscreen and obscure your view

In severe cold or snowy conditions, look out for winter service vehicles spreading salt or using snow ploughs. They will have flashing amber beacons and will be travelling at slower speeds of around 40 mph.

Stay well back because salt or spray is thrown across the road. Don’t overtake unless it is safe to do so – there may be uncleared snow on the road ahead.


Driving in the rain

When the road’s wet, it can take twice as long to stop. So it makes sense to slow down and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front

If your vehicle loses its grip, or “aquaplanes” on surface water take your foot off the accelerator to slow down.

Do not brake or steer suddenly because you have no control of the steering or brakes.


Flooded Roads

Try to avoid driving through surface water as you might flood your engine. Avoid the deepest water which is usually nearest the kerb.

If you must drive through floods, drive slowly using first gear and try to keep the engine revving at a high rate. Move forward continuously to avoid stalling the engine.

  • If driving an automatic vehicle, engage and hold in a low gear.
  • Check your mirror and test your brakes after driving through water, to make sure they are still working properly.


Driving in windy weather

Take extra care on the roads and plan your journeys by checking the latest weather conditions.

High-sided vehicles are particularly affected by windy weather, but strong gusts can also blow a smaller vehicle, cyclist, motorcyclist or horse rider off course. This can happen on open stretches of road exposed to strong crosswinds, or when passing bridges, high-sided vehicles or gaps in trees.


Driving with a low sun

Dazzle from sun can be dangerous. Keep a pair of sunglasses (prescription if needed) in the vehicle all year round and make sure you keep your windscreen clean.

Wear your sunglasses in bright sunshine, especially if the sun is low or reflecting off a wet road.

Driving in fog
Drive very slowly using dipped headlights so other drivers can see you.

If it is really foggy (less than 100m visibility), then switch your fog lights and rear high-intensity lights on. Remember to switch them off when visibility improves.

  • Do not hang on the tail-lights of the vehicle in front. This gives you a false sense of security and means you may be driving too close.

Fog is often patchy so try not to speed up as visibility improves. You could suddenly find yourself back in thick fog further up the road.

Driving on Darker evenings and mornings

  • Switch on lights as soon as it starts to get dark
  • In urban areas use dipped headlights. Use full beam on other roads at night but dip them when there is someone in front or coming towards you.

Take care when driving near schools and in residential areas, where children may be walking and cycling.

These road users are very vulnerable as they are both hard to spot in the dark and may act unpredictably. Slow right down to 20mph. If you hit someone at this speed, they have more than a nine in ten chance of survival, compared with about a 50/50 chance at 30mph.

Last Updated on Tuesday, November 15, 2022

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