Winter driving advice

Dri­ving in severe weather

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.