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Top 10 tips for driving in winter conditions

Safe driving on flood, snow and ice covered roads

Driving in flood

Winter has well and truly set in now, with flooding in some parts of the UK and snow and ice forecast. So what can you do to make sure getting from A to B is as safely as possible?

Before setting off in adverse conditions, it’s worth asking yourself if the journey is really essential. If it can be avoided that’s normally the best course of action. But if you have to drive on flooded roads or in snow or ice, check our top 10 tips before you set off.

Read our full guide to winter driving

1. Check your tyres before setting off

Getting maximum grip out of your tyres is crucial for driving in adverse conditions. Be sure to check that your tyres are in good condition, have adequate tread depth – we recommend at least 3mm – and that there is no sidewall damage.

2. Check the water depth

Cars with a higher ground clearance are generally more suited to driving through flood water. However, it’s always worth checking the depth of flood water before attempting to drive through it. If possible, park up and watch other vehicles go through it to see how deep it is. As a rule of thumb, you don’t want to enter standing water that’s deeper than six inches.

3. Take it slow through water

There is often a temptation to drive through flood water as quickly as possible. This is not advised and could cause internal damage. Instead, keep it slow and maintain the revs, if necessary by slipping the clutch – this will help keep the exhaust clear of water.

4. Test your brakes on exit

When it’s safe to do so, test your brakes. It’s highly likely they will need drying out, in which case use them gently at a slow speed.

Driving in snow

5. Keep your distance

Stopping distances dramatically increase in bad weather conditions, especially on snow and ice, so leave a much bigger gap between your car and the vehicle in front. At a minimum double the two-second rule so there is at least a four-second gap.

6. Avoid hard acceleration and braking

Accelerating and braking hard on wet, snowy or icy roads may lead to a loss of grip. Apply gentle pressure on the pedals, and if the car starts to slide, steer into the skid and keep your feet off the brake and throttle until the vehicle is back under control.

7. Stay in a higher gear on snow and ice

Driving in a higher gear will give you more control over your car in adverse weather. When pulling away on a slippery road it is often preferable to use second or even third gear, as first may not provide enough traction.

8. Stick to busy roads

Due to the higher volume of traffic on motorways and A-roads they generally offer a clearer route than back roads. They are more likely to have been gritted – many country lanes and minor roads will remain untreated throughout the winter. 

9. Plan your route

By planning your route before setting off, you can take into account what roads you’ll be driving on and which you should avoid. If you should get stuck on-route, it also means you’ll have a good idea of where you are if need to call for assistance.

10. Find a bigger space

Give yourself more room than usual when parking in snow or ice. Grip is likely to be decreased and if you were to lose traction when pulling away this should help avoid your car sliding into any objects or vehicles close by.

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