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Driving safely this winter

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Driving safely this winter

By National Highways

Driving safely during any season is essential but is especially important when faced with the challenges of winter. During severe winter weather, there may be snow and ice around which makes driving difficult. Consider if your journey is necessary, and only travel when there is no other option. If you must travel, ensure your plans go without a hitch – plan your journey in advance, particularly if you’re travelling on routes you’re not familiar with.

Before setting off on your journey:

  • Make sure you get a good night's sleep before your trip
  • Avoid alcohol the day before as this can disrupt sleep and affect your driving the following day
  • Know what medications you're on and how they affect you
  • Avoid driving between midnight and 6am when you’re likely to feel most tired

Before are some safety tips to help plan and prepare for your journey this winter season:

T Top-up your fuel/electricity charge, oil and screen-wash. Many breakdowns can be avoided simply by doing some easy vehicle checks. They’ll help you to have a safer journey and save you time and money.

R Rest the day before you’re due to make a long journey. Before you set out, plan where you will take a break. It’s important to break every two hours. You could stretch your legs at a motorway service area. Or how about at one of 500 places managed by the National Trust? Visit their website for more details.

I Inspect your tyres. It takes around 10 minutes to check tyre pressures and treads – a small amount of time to invest in your big trip.

P Prepare for severe weather. If severe weather is expected, consider delaying your journey until it clears. Check your route in advance of setting out to see if there are any incidents or roadworks to be aware of.

Pack a winter kit of essentials

Consider carrying a winter kit just in case you need them, especially if there's a forecast of severe weather.

  • Water
  • De-icer
  • Snacks
  • Warm clothes
  • Ice scraper
  • Fully charged mobile phone, and car charger
  • Torch
  • Blankets
  • Boots
  • Snow shovel
  • Sunglasses for low winter sun

When you're on the road

Follow this advice when travelling in winter weather when icy and snowy conditions can be a challenge:

  • Stick to main roads where you can and only travel if necessary.
  • Slow down - it can take 10 times longer to stop in icy conditions.
  • Use a high gear to avoid spinning your wheels.
  • Accelerate gently, using low revs. You may need to start in second gear to avoid skidding.
  • You may need up to 10 times the normal gap between your car and the car in front.
  • Avoid sudden braking, it may lock up your wheels and you could skid further.
  • Be extra cautious at road junctions where road markings may not be visible.

The Highway Code provides more information about driving in adverse weather conditions.

How we help you

Our traffic officers and control room teams work 24/7, 365 days a year to help keep people moving safely. This is particularly important during periods of cold weather.

Find out how we help you on our roads in winter.

What if I break down?

If your vehicle has a problem, or you get into trouble on a motorway, stay calm and try to exit at the next junction or motorway service area.

Find more advice on what to do if you break down on our website.

Find more advice and our safety campaigns on our website to help keep you safe when travelling on our roads.

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At IAM RoadSmart we make better drivers and riders. As the UK’s largest road safety charity, formed in 1956, we’ve spent more than 60 years making our roads safer by improving driver and rider skills through coaching and education.

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