Winter driving advice
Driving in severe weather
- View the Highways Agency’s 2013 campaign Make time for winter.
- Like us on facebook and follow us on twitter for our 2014 campaign, launching at the end of October
Always adjust your driving according to the conditions and plan your journey by checking the latest weather forecast.
Make sure that you can see clearly and that you can be seen. For example, clear ice and snow off all windows and lights before you set off. Use at least dipped headlights in poor visibility – and don’t just rely on daytime running lights if you have them.
There are many types of weather that can create challenging road conditions during winter.
You should drive with care and respect the road conditions wherever you drive. The Highways Agency looks after England’s motorways and major A roads, our colleagues in local authorities look after all the other roads, and we all work as hard as we can to keep our networks clear during severe weather.
You need to take even more care driving on minor roads, as not every road can be treated. Even where they have been treated it’s not the same as driving on a clear, dry road in the summer.
Choosing your route in snowy weather
Stick to the main roads where you can and avoid exposed routes.
Even if the time and location of snowfall is perfectly forecast, it will still take us time to clear the snow after it has fallen. Remember though, snowploughs can’t get through if the road or motorway is full of stationary traffic, so give our vehicles and crew the space they need to do their job and help you on your journey!
Steep hills and exposed roads are also likely to present more challenging driving conditions, so if you could avoid these it might make your journey easier.
Driving through ice and snow
- Clear any snow off the roof of the vehicle before you drive away.
- Watch out for icy conditions — look for clues such as ice on the pavement or on your windscreen before you start your journey and take extra care.
- Try not to brake suddenly – it may lock up your wheels and you could skid further.
- Leave extra space between you and other vehicles. Take even more care looking out for others that may not be able to stop and be extra cautious at road junctions where road markings may not be visible
- Look out for winter service vehicles spreading salt or using snow ploughs. They have flashing amber beacons and travel at slower speeds – around 40mph. Stay well back because salt or spray can be thrown across the road. Do not overtake unless it is safe to do so – there may be un-cleared snow on the road ahead.
Driving in rain and floods
- When the road is wet it can take twice as long to stop. Slow down and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
- If your vehicle loses grip, or “aquaplanes”, on surface water take your foot off the accelerator to slow down. Do not brake or steer suddenly because you have less control of the steering and brakes.
- Try to avoid driving through surface water as you might flood your engine.
- If you have to drive through floods, drive slowly, use a low gear and try to keep the engine revving at a high rate. Move forward continuously to avoid stalling the engine. When driving an automatic vehicle, engage and hold in a low gear.
- Test your brakes after driving through water; they may be ineffective.
Driving in fog
- Use dipped headlights so that other drivers can see you.
- If it is foggy (less than 100m visibility) then switch on your fog lights. Do not forget to turn them off when conditions improve.
- Fog is often patchy so try not to speed up as visibility improves. You could suddenly find yourself back in thick fog further up the road.
Driving in windy weather
- Take extra care on the roads and plan your journey by checking the latest weather conditions.
- Though high-sided vehicles are particularly affected by windy weather, strong winds can also blow other vehicles off course. This can happen on open stretches of road exposed to strong crosswinds, or when passing bridges, high-sided vehicles or gaps in trees.
Whatever the severe weather always adjust your driving according to the conditions.