Driving in Snow and Ice

Driving in Snow and Ice

The weather

The weather is an important factor when you’re driving. If it’s really bad, it might be best to postpone your trip or use public transport. Always try to avoid driving in thick fog or icy conditions as the risk of a road traffic incident is far higher.

Many drivers run into difficulties in very bad weather. Follow the weather forecasts and general advice to drivers through local and national media.

Driving in floods can sometimes be a necessity. Click here to see how best to prepare yourself for driving in floods.

Snow and ice

Starting off

  • If you experience wheelspin when you’re starting off in deep snow, don’t race the engine because the wheels will dig in further
  • Try to move the car slightly backwards and then forwards out of the rut. Use the highest gear you can.

Driving in snow

When falling snow reduces visibility, use your dipped headlights as you would in heavy rain or fog. Falling or freshly fallen snow need not cause too much difficulty, providing you remember to

  • increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front, remembering to look in your mirror before slowing down
  • test your brakes, very gently, from time to time, but be sure to look in your mirrors before braking. Snow can pack behind the front wheels or around brake linkages under the car and so affect steering and braking
  • be prepared to clear the windscreen by hand. Your wipers, even with the aid of the heater, may not be able to sweep the snow clear. Snow might collect and pack around your lights and indicators
  • drive with care, even if the roads have been treated. Conditions can change over very short distances
  • try to find out about weather and traffic conditions ahead by listening to travel bulletins on the radio and noting any information on the variable message signs.

Driving in icy conditions

Overnight freezing usually results in an icy surface, especially on less-used roads. Look for signs of frost on verges, etc.

It’s even more dangerous when the roads are just beginning to freeze or thaw. The combination of water and ice adds up to an extremely slippery surface.

Rain freezing on roads as it falls (black ice) is an invisible danger. When driving on ice

  • you need to keep your speed down
  • treat every control – brakes, accelerator, steering, clutch and gears – very delicately
  • If it’s very cold, treat all wet-looking surfaces as though they’re frozen because they probably are. If the road looks wet but there’s no sound from the tyres, expect ice.

For more information and advice about driving in winter, see the new DVSA Winter Driving ePub.

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