When the temperature drops: reach for the top! 11 top tips for driving in the winter

Blog post posted on 16/12/19 |

Winter brings difficult driving conditions, so this is a good time to remind everyone to drive safely when the temperature drops below zero.

Here is some advice from IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards, Richard Gladman, to help drivers cope with road surfaces covered in frost, ice or snow.

The Met Office will usually issue a weather warning when freezing conditions are expected, and it’s important to take extra care when travelling in this season.

1. If the weather conditions are severe in your area, you should note police advice and avoid travelling. However, in exceptional circumstances if you must go out then drive with extra caution on icy roads.

2. Triple your stopping distance and approach every junction expecting to stop well before the stop or give way line. It can take up to 10 times as long to stop in icy conditions according to advice from the Highway Code. Every steering, acceleration or braking input should be as smooth and gentle as possible, select second gear when you pull away in icy conditions as it will create less torque and prevent wheels spinning.

3. Salt will often make the windscreen, headlights, number plate and the rear of your car very dirty. Cars without headlamp washers for example, will lose an estimated 40% of power and possibly all their focus in about 20 miles on a damp, gritted motorway. When travelling long distances you stop regularly at service stations to clean your windscreen and headlights with a clean cloth. Or keep a filled bottle of water in the boot to give your lights, windows and mirrors a quick clean. Top up your washer fluid regularly during the winter. 

4. Never ignore any warning light that appears on your dashboard. If one appears get it checked out as soon as possible. Being stuck on the side of the road is annoying but breaking down in freezing conditions is a risk.

5. Always carry a winter driving kit including the following:

  • Ice scraper
  • De-icer
  • Blanket
  • Torch
  • Shovel
  • Something to eat and drink
  • A fully charged mobile phone
  • A reflective triangle
  • High visibility jacket

6. When driving on a busy road avoid overtaking a gritting lorry as the road ahead may not be treated yet. If you have any doubt, don’t risk it. And never overtake a snow plough in heavy snow conditions.

7.  While roads may be gritted to give you better traction, some areas may not be completely treated which can leave icy patches. Drive at a steady pace, with your safety and that of your passengers in mind. On roads you use regularly, watch out for water running across the carriageway as this can wash away salt.

8. Keep your car clean throughout the winter as the salt in grit can cause corrosion to any exposed parts.

9. Wash and rinse alloy wheels too; the smallest scratch can quickly cause corrosion.

10. Just because the winter sun is out don’t assume the roads might not be icy. Micro-climates of icy patches will linger in areas such as bridges and exposed sections, where the sun has not yet reached.

11. Ensure your tyres have at least 2mm of tread, ideally 3mm. The more tread tyres have, the more water they can cope with. Don’t let tyres wear down to the legal limit of 1.6mm. Consider winter tyres if you think they might help. The following link will give good safety tips: https://www.tyresafe.org/tyre-safety/

Richard said: “Preparation is the key to avoiding a dangerous situation whilst driving in snowy or icy conditions. Don’t rely on the performance of your car systems to get you out of trouble – allow time, make sure you have good visibility all round and carry the right equipment. If conditions are extreme remember the best advice is not to travel.”


Notes to editors:

Richard Gladman is IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards.

IAM RoadSmart has a mission to make better drivers and riders in order to improve road safety, inspire confidence and make driving and riding enjoyable. It does this through a range of courses for all road users, from online assessments through to the advanced driving and riding tests. IAM RoadSmart is the trading name of all businesses operated by the UK’s largest road safety charity, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and was formed in April 2016 combining the IAM, IAM Drive & Survive, PDS and IAM Driver Retraining Academy. The organisation has 92,000 members and campaigns on road safety on their behalf. At any one time there are over 7,000 drivers and riders actively engaged with IAM RoadSmart’s courses, from members of the public to company drivers, while our Driver Retraining Academy has helped 2,500 drivers to shorten their bans through education and support programmes.

To find out more about IAM RoadSmart products and services visit the new website www.iamroadsmart.com

To find out the name of your own local IAM RoadSmart group please visit: https://wwwiamroadsmart.com/local-groups

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