Rain, sleet, snow and fog can all make driving more difficult in the winter months. If you have to be on the roads during adverse weather conditions then there are a few things you can do to help keep you, and other road users safe.

Before you set off

  • Check the temperature. Winter temperatures can vary from day to day, from mild to freezing, so it’s well worth checking whether you’re likely to encounter any icy roads.
  • Give your vehicle a thorough check. Pay particular attention to tyres to ensure they are roadworthy and check that your wipers and lights are all working.
  • Plan your route carefully. Some roads are more dangerous than others when the weather is bad so it’s worth considering whether your usual route is best. Sticking to major roads is usually safest.
  • Clean your windows. Any marks and smears can block your view. Keep your windscreen washer bottle topped up so you can wash on the go as needed.
  • Pack your sunglasses. The low winter sun can be just as dazzling as summer rays and can also reflect on wet surfaces.
  • Be prepared. In winter it’s always a good idea to have some warm layers, a hi-vis vest, snacks and drinks in the vehicle, in case you breakdown. 
  • De-ice and de-steam.  Don’t just clear a ‘port hole’ to peer through, make sure the full windscreen and back and side windows are clear.

On the road

  • Take extra care at traffic lights. Can you tell which of the 3 lights in a traffic light is illuminated? If the winter sun is shining into the lights’ lenses or directly behind them, it can be hard to tell whether you’re seeing green or red.
  • Be wary of puddles. When roads flood, you can’t tell how deep the water is. Don’t be tempted to just guess and don’t continue if you’re not confident of the depth.
  • Minimise distractions in the vehicle. You’ll need to concentrate 100% on the road and any warning signs.
  • Take care on bridges and overpasses. Because air can circulate both above and below an elevated roadway, its surface temperature drops more rapidly than on normal roads increasing the risk of black ice. They are also dangerous in strong winds.
  • Remember, fog is slippery. Fog doesn’t just lead to visibility challenges, it creates a slippery coating on road surfaces. Don’t forget this. Many people think fog only causes bad visibility.
  • Be extra careful in the rain. Although fog is often considered the worst weather condition for visibility, heavy rain and spray from the road can be just as blinding.
  • Watch your speed. In adverse weather conditions it can take ten times the normal distance to stop. Even driving at the speed limit can be too fast, as the chances of skidding are greater and it takes longer to react to hazards.
  • Leave plenty of stopping space. In rainy, snowy, icy or foggy weather leave more space between you and the vehicle in front to allow yourself more time to react.
  • Take more breaks than usual. Driving in bad conditions can be more tiring, so plan for more stops on your route.

If you break down

  • Decide where is safest to wait. Regardless of the weather, never wait inside your vehicle on the motorway as you’re at risk of being hit from behind. Wait far up the verge, away from the hard shoulder. On other roads, you should only stay in the car if it is parked somewhere away from traffic.
  • Keep moving your arms and legs. If you are stuck for a long period it’s important to keep moving to maintain circulation. Be careful not to over exert yourself though.

Want to know more about safe winter driving? Take a look at RoSPA’s guidance

Michelle Phillips
Safety Manager, SHEQ