Driving On Snow & Ice – Tips & Hints

Citroen with Wheelwright Winter wheels and winter tyresAs newspapers throughout the land get all excited because northern parts of the UK have experienced a small amount of winter weather during the winter, it seems like a good time to share some tips about driving on snow.

These are all the more relevant if you have never driven on snow before – and quite a lot of you haven’t, according to a recent survey by Manheim Auctions.

The survey found that 60% of respondents in Wales, 45% in London and 42% in Yorkshire and Humberside had never driven in snow before – meaning that they will be in for a surprise when they first try it.

Here are a few tips from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) to help you drive safely in snow and ice:

  • Make sure your windows are clear and that you have all-round visibility before you set off. Also take the time to clear snow off the roof of your car
  • When driving in snow, get your speed right – not too fast that you risk losing control, but not so slow that you risk losing momentum when you need it
  • Start gently from stationary, avoiding high revs. Stay in a higher gear for better control, and if it is slippery, in a manual car move off in a higher gear, rather than just using first
  • If you get yourself into a skid the main thing to remember is to take your foot off the pedals and steer
  • Only use the brake if you cannot steer out of trouble. Double or even triple your normal stopping distance from the vehicle in front so you are not relying on your brakes to be able to stop. It simply may not happen!
  • It’s better to think ahead as you drive to keep moving, even if it is at walking pace
  • Plan your journey around busier roads as they are more likely to have been gritted. Avoid using short cuts on minor roads – they are less likely to be cleared or treated with salt, especially country lanes and housing areas
  • Bends are a particular problem in slippery conditions – slow down before you get to the bend, so that by the time you turn the steering wheel you have already lost enough speed
  • On a downhill slope get your speed low before you start the descent, and do not let it build up – it is much easier to keep it low than to try and slow down once things get slippery
Close up of winter tyre on snow
Winter tyres have lots of small grooves - called 'sipes' - that fill with snow, providing better grip on snow. They are also made from a different rubber compound and remain soft and flexible at low temperatures, unlike summer tyres which become stiff and slippery.

It’s worth noting that these tips are especially aimed at the majority of British motorists who will be driving on snow with summer tyres (standard fit) on their cars. These tyres are not designed to work in snow or at very low temperatures and provide very poor grip compared with winter tyres, which many continental motorists use during the winter.

All-season tyres also provide a worthwhile improvement on summer tyres and have the added benefit that they can be used all year round. If you don’t fancy changing tyres but do want some extra help, then a set of snow socks might be the ideal solution.

If you are using winter tyres this year, you should find that although a certain amount of caution is still necessary in snow and ice, you will have much more grip than with summer tyres and will be able to make much easier, safer and faster progress than you would do with summer tyres.

Have you tried winter tyres for the first time this year? Let us know how you get on and what differences you’ve noticed, especially if you have now had a chance to use them on snow and ice.

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