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Drive safely this winter

Snow Covered Road In Daytime Photo By Catherine Zaidova On Unsplash

WINTER! - The days are darker and the weather wetter, there's no getting around it! Our mission is to help you stay safe on the roads to enjoy all of the lovely things this time of year has to offer!

So as a handy reminder, we've come up with the little acronym ACES, highlighting the main aspects of driving safely in winter:

  • Adapt – Adapt and moderate your driving to reflect the winter weather conditions.
  • Check – Do you need to drive? If yes, check the weather and your vehicle before setting off.
  • Expect the unexpected – Prepare your car in advance for all winter weather situations.
  • Share the road safely – Be aware of other drivers, walkers & cyclists.

So, let's take a quick look at these:

ADAPT to the winter weather conditions:

Read and react to the winter weather conditions - slow down, drive more carefully, and remember to keep a safe distance too.

Switch on your lights, even if it's daylight. You may think you don't need them because you can see where you're going, but others may not see you in the gloomy light.

CHECK's to make before driving this winter:

The first thing to check is if you need to drive at all, i.e. do you REALLY need to take the car?

For local journeys, switching from the car to walking or public transport can be not only safer, but allow you to fit in some exercise on route too!

  • CHECK your route: consider planning/changing your journey to follow major roads that are more likely to have been cleared and gritted.
  • CHECK the weather: conditions can change along your route, so consider this as part of planning your journey too.
  • CHECK the clock: give yourself more time, at least 10 minutes, to prepare the car and allow extra time for your journey.
  • CHECK your vehicle:  (Our source for these tips is the RAC)
    • Fuel / Oil – Running low on fuel or oil is a cause of many winter breakdowns, so check and top up your engine oil and petrol.
    • Rubber – Check your tyres, ensure the treads are legal for this time of year. Although the minimum tread level is 1.6mm, during winter, it's advisable to have 3mm of tread on your tyres to help with traction and grip. Rubber also covers wiper blades, so check these too, as they are not everlasting and will need replacing from time-to-time, so check them for splits and cracks. Check whether they are effective at clearing your screen and replace as necessary.  
    • Check your battery - a battery lasts around five years, so replacing one near the end of its life can save a lot of time and inconvenience at the side of the road.
    • Check your windows – clear all windows, lights, and roof entirely using a scraper and de-icer and de-mist your front and rear windscreens. ( The RAC gives you the legal lowdown on this point).
    • Brrr! - Stock up on anti-freeze (& screen-wash) too!

EXPECT the unexpected:

Prepare for fast changes in weather, and ensure your car is ready for heavy snow and ice conditions.

Things to think about include:

  • Pack a snow shovel in your car boot.
  • Consider creating a car 'emergency kit', this could include (the following items are all recommended by the RAC):
    • A mobile phone and charger
    • Hi-visibility vest
    • A first aid kit
    • De-icer and a scraper
    • A tow-rope
    • Wellington boots
    • A torch
    • Warm clothes
    • Food and drink


  • Our tips for driving in Snow (The AA has a great page on winter driving advice): 
    • Gentle manoeuvres are the key to safe driving – as stopping distances are ten times longer in ice and snow. 
    • Keep a constant speed and reduce it when going down-hill. 
    • If you get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels. Put a sack or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip. Once on the move again, try not to stop until you reach firmer ground. 
    • We have a section on our driving safely in winter page on our website called 'Driving in Snow' which covers this in a lot more detail.


SHARE the road safely:

  • Share the road safely with pedestrians:

Allow for walkers and cyclists to be in unexpected places as they navigate around wintry conditions such as snow and ice. Also, bear in mind that walkers and cyclists may not be wearing bright and visible clothing, so it is harder to see them in low light and darkness.

  • Share the road safely with cyclists (Safe passing / opening of car doors):

The Highway Code states drivers should give cyclists at least as much room as a car when overtaking.  In winter weather, it can be dangerous for cyclists to travel close to the kerb where there may be potholes and drains, or snow and ice that they must avoid, so allowing more space is particularly important in wet or dark conditions.

Also, be mindful of cyclists coming from behind you as you open a car door.

A great tip here is 'The Dutch Reach', which is simply a way of opening a car door that forces you to look behind the car before opening. So you can see if any cyclists or pedestrians are approaching from behind.

This great video from WeAreCycling demonstrates why this technique is so important in avoiding car door accidents with cyclists, and installing the discipline of looking out and behind you to check for oncoming cyclists BEFORE opening a car door. As the name implies, it is part of road safety and drivers' education in Holland.

Let's drive safely this winter!


By Stephen at 28 Nov 2019, 11:00 AM


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