It’s snow laughing matter: driving and riding tips from IAM RoadSmart

Blog post posted on 15/01/21 |

With temperatures at freezing point across much of the UK at the moment and yellow warnings of snow, Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart Head of Driving and Riding Standards, has these useful tips for anyone heading out on an essential journey:

  • If you do have to head out in the snow during lockdown, make sure you have cleared your windows, mirrors lights and numberplate before setting off. Use the heater settings to remove mist and condensation. Avoid using hot water to pour over your windscreen as it’s likely that it will freeze up again or crack. Most modern locks have plastic components so never apply direct heat to a door lock. 
  • Keep an eye on your tyres. The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm – but for safe travel, you should not let the depth go below 3mm. Whatever you do, avoid travelling with worn tyres as this will increase the likelihood of your car skidding. If you can use them, winter tyres do offer a grip advantage.

  • If you’re driving a manual vehicle, avoid using high revs and set off gently in second gear. This will improve control and reduce the risk of your wheels spinning. If you’re driving an automatic vehicle, select the ‘winter’ mode (if there is one), which will automatically lockout first gear and reduce the risk of wheel spin. If unsure, refer to your handbook for more advice.
  • If your car loses grip you should take your foot off the accelerator and point the front wheels in the direction you want them to go. All steering and braking inputs must be as gentle as possible in icy conditions. Front-wheel-drive vehicles are generally better in icy conditions, but if your car is a rear-wheel-drive always take it extra slow and steady when changing direction.
  • Increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front, especially in slippery conditions. The Highway Code suggests doubling the distance in the wet and up to 10 times in snow and ice. The same applies for when you’re approaching a junction or a sharp bend. Drive or ride at a steady speed that allows you to stop well within the available distance.
Richard said: “With lockdown in full force across the country, you should not go out for anything but essential journeys. In very heavy snow, you should avoid driving or riding if at all possible. Even when the snow stops and frost thaws, ice will stay around areas that are shaded or that are exposed to wind-chill. Consider how you drive and ride through these micro-climates and be prepared to slow down if you need to. Remember in extreme conditions minor routes may not have been visited by the gritting lorry.”