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Safety tips for driving in the winter snow and ice


Before you leave for a journey

Set out at least 10 minutes early to give you time to prepare the car and clear all windows using a scraper or de-icer or warm water NOT BOILING.

Plan your route to drive on major roads which are more likely to have been cleared and gritted.

Put safety first and always allow extra time for winter journeys so you are not having to rush if you are late for work and getting yourself in to a panic.


Tips for driving in the snow and ice

Gentle manoeuvres are always the key to safe driving in any conditions and stopping distances are 10 times longer in ice and snow.

1. Wear comfortable, dry shoes for driving.

2. Pull away in second gear, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.

3. When driving up hill avoid having to stop part way up by waiting until it is clear of other cars or by leaving plenty of room between you and the car in front. Keep a constant speed, choosing the most suitable gear well in advance to avoid having to change down on the hill.

4. When driving downhill reduce your speed before you get to the hill, use a low gear and try to avoid using the brakes. Leave as much room as possible between you and the car in front.

5. If you have to use brakes then apply them gently. Release the brakes and de-clutch if the car starts to skid.

6. Automatic transmission - under normal driving conditions it is best to select Drive and let the gearbox do the work throughout the full gear range. If the conditions are slippery or snowy its best to select 2, which limits the gear changes and also makes you less reliant on the brakes. Some autos have a winter mode which locks out first gear to reduce the risk of any wheel spin. Check the vehicle handbook.

Tyre safety

It is recommended that you have 3mm of tyre tread for winter driving and no less than 2mm. Consider if possible changing to winter or all season tyres these will have a higher silica content in the tread which prevents it hardening at lower temperatures therefore giving better grip in cold and wet conditions.


Make sure that all you vehicle bulbs are working and that lenses are clean and also keep the number plates clean too as you can be fined if they are dirty and illegible. By law you must be able to read your vehicle registration number at all times whilst driving on public roads.

If there is snow on your vehicle it is very important to clear it from the lights (front and back) as well as from the windows and roof.

You must use your headlights when visibility is reduced. You may also use front or rear fog lights but these must be switched off when visibility improves as they can dazzle other road users becoming a hazard in itself.

Antifreeze information

If you have a continuous squealing noise when the engine is started it is a sign the water pump is frozen this will be the fan belt slipping on the pulley. You must stop the engine immediately and allow it to thaw out, if possible the vehicle should be moved to a heated garage.

If your vehicle begins to overheat it is likely that the radiator has frozen preventing the coolant from circulating. At your earliest convenience you must stop to avoid serious damage and allow the radiator to thaw out. Antifreeze will only cost you a few pounds and most modern cars will use long life antifreeze, it is important to get the right type to avoid mixing. You will need a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water in the cooling system.

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