Winter Driving

Winter weather can be harsh and driving conditions can quickly change with poor visibility, caused by mist, fog, snow and ice on the roads – so be prepared when driving this winter and take extra care when planning your journey.


Here’s a simple checklist for planning a journey:

  • check the weather forecast and road conditions
  • consider other routes
  • consider other types of transport if running
  • allow extra time for your journey
  • ensure that your vehicle is prepared for the journey
  • carry warm clothing, blankets, hot drinks, a torch, a shovel, and suitable footwear and a charged mobile phone
  • tell someone at your destination what time you expect to arrive
  • kept a de-icer or scraper in your boot

Checking routes

Always check your route before you set out. Make sure you know exactly where you are going and what roads you’re taking.Consider other routes and allow extra time for your journey. Ensure that your vehicle is prepared with clean lights, windows and mirrors and sufficient fuel for the journey. Carry warm clothing, blankets, hot drinks, a torch, a shovel, and the right footwear. Tell someone at your destination what time you expect to arrive.

Checking the weather forecast

Severe weather is not just about snow and ice – it includes strong winds, fog, dazzling sun and floods too. If really bad conditions are forecast, think about whether you need to travel at all, even if you are only going on a short, familiar journey.

The Met Office, BBC and ITV have the latest information on weather conditions on UK roads so check first before setting out. You will be warned in advance of any severe weather that might be approaching. If in doubt – don’t travel.

Checking vehicle condition

In winter, it is even more important to check that your vehicle is well maintained and serviced. Before going on a journey, make sure your vehicle is in good running order.

Before driving, consider these points:

  • keep the lights, windows and mirrors clean and free from ice and snow. Driving a vehicle with snow/frost covering windows is dangerous and illegal
  • add anti-freeze to the radiator and winter additive to the windscreen washer bottles. Make sure your winter additive is effective in very low temperatures
  • make sure wipers and lights are in good working order
  • check that tyres have plenty of tread depth and are maintained at the correct pressure

The Highways Agency has more information about car checks and driving in winter and maintaining your vehicle.

Help and advice for your journey

Road conditions can suddenly change during the winter, so when driving it’s best to be well prepared. During your journey, consider these points:

  • reduce speed in bad weather
  • increase your stopping distance. A two second time gap in normal driving conditions between you and the vehicle in front needs to be doubled or trebled in bad conditions. Remember, never drive so fast that you cannot stop within the distance you can see to be clear
  • avoid sudden acceleration and braking
  • use dipped headlights in poor conditions
  • take breaks every two or three hours
  • listen to travel bulletins

Starting from home in icy and frosty conditions

  • be aware that if your vehicle is garaged, once you drive out the windows may mist and/or freeze
  • if you leave your vehicle in the street or on a driveway consider using a cover, which is not an expensive item to purchase
  • some de-icers can cause interior misting, so use the heater to de-mist your windows before driving off
  • remember, driving a vehicle with snow/frost covered windows is dangerous and illegal
  • walking to your car can be slippery, so consider applying a salt/grit mix on the walkway the previous night. Tesco, B&Q and Halfords are currently selling a range of de-icing/gritting products

If stranded

  • ensure that your vehicle will not block access (abandoned vehicles can obstruct spreaders)
  • if possible, remain in your vehicle unless there is a safety risk
  • maintain your circulation by moving about
  • use engine to keep warm unless exhaust cannot vent
  • keep an airway open if snowed over

Text adapted from Highways Agency website.