Tips for driving in snow and ice - seven ways to be safer

27/12/14

Road sign reading: "Please drive carefully"

Weather forecasters are predicting snow and ice across much of the UK.

The Met Office is warning of difficult driving conditions and some motorists in Yorkshire spent last night trapped in their cars.

Staffordshire and Cheshire have also been badly affected.

Expert advice states that you should avoid travelling wherever possible but if you absolutely must go out in your car, there are some things you can do to make your journey safer.

Here is some guidance for driving through snow and ice, from the Institute of Advanced Motoring (IAM) and The Highway Code.

1 - Pack properly

Road sign reading: "Please drive carefully"

Don't leave the house in a hurry. Make sure your car is fully equipped with warm clothes, like a hat, coat and gloves.

Put a blanket in as well, so that if you get stuck, you have something to keep you warm.

Pack some food and water and a hot drink if possible. Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged. A first aid kit, torch and ice scraper may all come in handy.

If you have some old carpet or cat litter, bring that as well - it can be put under the tyres if they get stuck. Or a shovel could help you clear snow.

2 - Car maintenance

Phone box and car covered in snow

In cold weather the battery in your car will run down quicker. Doing an occasional longer journey will keep it topped-up.

If you don't have winter tyres, make sure that your normal ones are properly inflated and that you have a minimum 3mm tread.

Use a lighter to gently heat car keys if door locks freeze up.

3 - Improving your vision

Clear all windows thoroughly - The Highway Code states that you must be able to see properly before you set off. Also clear snow off the roof of your car to stop it slipping down and blocking your view as you drive.

Make sure that your screenwash is topped up and use a proper additive at the right concentration to prevent it freezing.

In falling snow, use dipped headlights or fog-lights to make yourself visible to others (especially pedestrians) - but as conditions improve, make sure your fog-lights are only on if necessary as they can dazzle other drivers, the IAM recommends.

4 - Gentle pedals

Snowy street in Sheffield

When driving in snow, the IAM says it's important to get your speed right.

If you go too fast you could lose control but if you drive too slowly you risk losing momentum. Make sure to brake, steer and accelerate as gently as possible.

Make sure your stopping distances allow time for you to react and are also increased for the snow and ice you are driving through.

5 - Second gear

The higher the gear, the better control you will have, says the IAM.

Consider starting gently in second gear, avoiding higher revs.

6 - Plan your route

Men pushing a car reflected in a wing mirror

Main roads are more likely to have been gritted, so use these wherever possible.

Allow extra time to make your journey.

7 - Breakdown assistance

If you are a member of an organisation that helps in the event of a breakdown, make sure you take your membership details with you.

Keep in mind though, at this time of year they can be very busy.

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