Eight top tips for safe driving in winter

4 x 4 x vehicle driving thourgh rural snowy conditions

Published 9 April 2021
Last updated 12 April 2022

In this blog, we'll look at 8 tips for safer driving this winter. On the way, you'll learn to manage risk by using screenwash, high-vis clothing and light checks.

Winter is upon us – a time of dark mornings, early sunsets, putting on the heating, woolly jumpers and plenty of mince pies. And (this is a personal observation) why is winter clothing so dark and drab, compared with summer shirts that would not look out of place on a Pacific island? It seems that, as the days get shorter, clothing manufacturers do their best to make sure we cannot be seen when we’re out and about.

As the seasons change for the gloomier, the risks of using the roads increase, so I thought I’d give you some tips to help you stay safe.

Eight essential tips

  • Ask yourself: do I really need to make this journey? If the weather’s looking a bit dodgy and the road conditions are not great, maybe you could save yourself a potentially risky journey by staying in or by using public transport to get where you need to be. If you do decide to drive, check the weather forecast before you set out so you’ll know what to expect on your journey.
  • Wear high-visibility clothing. This does not just apply to cyclists. As a pedestrian – even when you’re simply walking to and from the car – you could dramatically increase the chances of other road users seeing you in good time. On a wet and dark road with numerous headlights coming from all directions, someone in dark clothing is much more difficult to see than a person wearing something bright or reflective.
  • Check your vehicle’s lights regularly. You’ll be doing this already but, in the winter months, you’ll be using your headlights more often and for longer, so the bulbs are more likely to fail. Drivers in front of you could mistake you for a motorcyclist if one of your headlights is out, and not allow enough room for the width of your vehicle. Also, it may seem obvious, but do not forget to switch your lights on if it’s getting dark!
  • Have winter tyres fitted. Useful in the snow and ice, winter tyres also have benefits even when it has not snowed but temperatures have dropped sharply. These tyres are made from a special kind of rubber and have a different tread pattern, which together reduce the risk of losing control through poor tyre grip.
  • Invest in good-quality polarised sunglasses. The sun is low in the sky during the winter, so it’s easy to be dazzled while you’re driving, particularly in wet weather. Compared with standard sunglasses, polarised sunglasses improve contrast and reduce reflections and glare.
  • Use a screenwash. In freezing conditions, road salt/grit is thrown up by traffic and this can coat your windscreen with a film of dirt. Combine this with low winter sun and your view can quickly deteriorate. Use a propriety screenwash, as this has an anti-freeze added and should ensure you can keep your windscreen clean, clear and free from smears even in the lowest temperatures.
  • Stopping distances. If conditions reduce your view of the road ahead, give yourself enough space and time to take any necessary action. Remember: on dark, dreary days, hazards are harder to spot.
  • Have the right equipment. Keep some de-icer, an ice scraper, a blanket, drinking water, a high-visibility jacket, a warm coat and a high-visibility triangle with you in the car. Maybe some of those mince pies would not go amiss either, but do not eat them while you’re driving!

And, if you’re going to take your driving test this winter, watch our YouTube video, Driving tests in bad weather: official DVSA guide. The chances are the weather will be just fine, but it would not hurt to prepare yourself.

Stay safe and keep cosy!

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