Winter driving

Plan your journey

Before setting out on your journey during wintry weather conditions:

  • Ask yourself if your journey is absolutely essential.
  • Check the local and national weather forecasts.
  • Listen to local and national radio for travel information.
  • Tell someone what time you expect to arrive.
  • Take warm clothes, food, boots, torch and a mobile phone, and in snowy conditions, a spade.
  • Clear your windows and mirrors before you set out and carry a screen scraper and de-icer.

If you get into trouble

If you have a mobile phone, do not use it while driving. Stop somewhere safe or ask a passenger to make the call.

On a motorway, it is best to use a roadside emergency telephone, as the breakdown / emergency services will be able to locate you easily. If you have to use a mobile phone, first make sure you know your location from the numbers on the marker posts on the side of the hard shoulder.

Abandoned vehicles can cause problems for rescue vehicles and snowploughs. To ensure that the road is cleared as quickly as possible stay with your vehicle until help arrives. If you have to leave your vehicle to get help make sure you can be seen by other vehicles.

Vehicle condition

  • In winter it is even more important to check that your vehicle is well maintained and serviced.
  • Keep your lights, windows and mirrors clean and free from ice and snow.
  • Keep your battery fully charged.
  • Add anti-freeze to the radiator and winter additive to the windscreen washer bottles.
  • Make sure wipers and lights are in good working order.
  • Check tyres have plenty of tread depth and are maintained at the right pressure.

Adjust your driving to the conditions

  • Hail, heavy snow and rain reduce visibility.
  • Use dipped headlights and reduce your speed.

When roads are icy or slushy

  • It can take ten times longer to stop in icy conditions than on a dry road so drive slowly, allowing extra room to slow down and stop.
  • Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin.
  • Manoeuvre gently, avoiding harsh braking and acceleration.
  • To brake on ice and snow, without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use the brake pedal gently.
  • If you get into a skid, ease off the accelerator but do not brake suddenly.

Watch out for fog

  • Drive very slowly using dipped headlights.
  • Use fog lights if visibility is seriously reduced, but remember to switch them off when visibility improves.
  • Try not to rely on the rear lights of a vehicle in front of you to light your way, it may cause you to travel too close or too fast to be able to stop safely and in time.
  • Don't speed up suddenly, even if it seems to be clearing. You can suddenly find yourself back in thick fog.

Winter sun

  • Dazzle from winter sun can be dangerous. Take extra care when driving on bright days.

Take care around winter maintenance vehicles

The Highways Agency, aims to keep delays and accidents to a minimum in wintry weather conditions by clearing all lanes and hardshoulders on motorways and trunk roads as soon as conditions permit. CORMAC Solutions carry out this work on Cornwall's local roads. Winter maintenance vehicle drivers take all possible precautions during operations to protect the safety of other road users.

  • Salting vehicles - Great care is taken when applying salt to the road to ensure that correct spread and widths are maintained. Salting vehicles are extremely powerful and travel at up to 40mph spreading salt across all lanes of motorways and trunk roads. Drivers should remain a safe distance behind them. Do not attempt to overtake.
  • Snow Ploughing - You should take particular care to watch for irregular accumulations of snow caused by snow ploughing operations. Do not be tempted to overtake snowploughs by squeezing into partially cleared lanes.

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