Winter driving tips: driving in rain, snow and ice

Wet and wintry conditions can make driving a real challenge. Watch the IAM’s Rebecca Ashton explain what you need to think about when on the road.

Rebecca Ashton from the Institute of Advanced Motorists offers advice on driving in wintry conditions

If you’re setting off in wintery conditions, try to stay in as high a gear as possible and keep your revs low. This will help reduce any chance of your wheels spinning. Some cars have a winter mode, which does the same job – so to check whether your car has this function refer to the vehicle’s handbook.

When you’re on the move, it’s important to get your speed right, and to maintain safe stopping distances between you and the car in front. In wet weather, you should leave double the distance you normally would, and in snow and ice this can be up to 10 times the distance.

When you’re approaching a bend, get all your speed reduction done before you actually start to turn the steering wheel. If your car does lose grip try not to panic; the key thing is to take your foot off the accelerator and make sure that your wheels are pointing in the direction you want to go in.

When driving in dull, gloomy, wintery conditions, especially in heavy rain and snow, make sure that you use your dipped headlights. Relying on daytime running lights is not enough, because they don’t always put lights on the back of your car. If visibility drops below a 100m, put your fog lights on. But remember to turn them off when the visibility improves.

If you’re starting off on a long journey, be aware of how cold it is outside the car. There’s a real risk of you being nice and warm in your car and not noticing that the temperature has dropped below freezing outside. Some cars have a frost light that lets you know when the temperature outside has dropped below freezing, so look out for that.

Finally, it’s important to think about the environment that you’re driving in, especially microclimates that might appear on the road. These are areas that perhaps the sun hasn’t got to, which could stay icy when the rest of the road has thawed. Bridges are a good example. They’re normally the first to freeze and the last to thaw. So be aware of that when you’re driving in open spaces.

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