Winter driving tips: how to prepare for driving in wintery weather

Of all the seasons, winter poses the biggest challenge for drivers. It’s dark for much of the day, and the temperature is low. Snow and ice can make the roads treacherous. As a new and inexperienced driver, you really need to keep your wits about you. Follow these winter driving tips to stay safe when it turns cold.

Get your car ready for winter

  • Make sure you have plenty of screen wash. When the roads are dirty you’ll get through screen wash at a rapid rate.
  • You should also check there’s anti-freeze in the car’s radiator so the coolant doesn’t freeze if the temperature drops below zero.
  • Tyres should have the legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm all around the tyre and across the central three quarters of the tread. It’s better to change the tyres before they are borderline illegal.
  • Keep de-icer and a window scraper in the car. It’s an obvious winter driving tip, perhaps, but if you keep them in the car they will always be there when you need them.
  • Consider winter tyres. These are designed to give better grip at temperatures of 7˚C and below than the summer tyres that most UK drivers use all year. It might seem like a big expense, but you’ll be saving wear on the summer tyres while you are using winter rubber. If you live in a region that often has bad weather in winter, switching to winter tyres makes a lot of sense.
  • Snow socks or snow chains are a cheaper alternative to winter tyres, but will need to be taken off once you reach roads that have been cleared of snow and ice.
  • At the start of every journey, make sure you have plenty of fuel. Fill up if you need to. Don’t risk running out of fuel in winter.

Driving in winter

  • It’s early in your driving career, so approach winter driving cautiously. If the weather is really bad it could be better to delay your journey or make other travel plans.
  • One of the most important winter driving tips is to allow plenty of stopping distance. In good weather it’s recommended to leave a gap of at least two seconds to the car in front. If it’s wet, you should double that to four seconds. In really extreme weather, when there’s ice and snow about and stopping distances increase significantly, leave a 10-second gap.
  • Stay smooth. If the road surface is wet or icy there will be less grip than normal. Steer, brake, and accelerate calmly and gently so you can keep the car under control when the going gets slippery.
  • If you are going on a long journey and the weather is bad, take some food and drink with you, and an emergency blanket. That way you’ll stay warm if you break down or get stuck.
  • At the end of every journey, make sure you have left your wipers in the ‘off’ position. Otherwise they may stick to the windscreen.

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