How to drive safely this winter

Car tyre track imprints through ice and slush covered tarmac.

Published 18 December 2023
Last updated 26 February 2024

In this blog we give you some great tips for staying safe on the roads this winter.

Brrrrrr, I don’t know what it’s like with you, but things have started to turn chilly in these parts. Just when I thought it was safe to put the thermal underwear away, the cold weather’s slunk in to help the long dark nights make me feel so much better!

Ah well, at least we have Christmas to look forward to. That’s right Christmas, you know, the time of year when children coo as they open their presents and dinner tables creak with festive food.

Now you might be wondering what any of this has to do with driving. Well, I’ll tell you: as we count down to Christmas it’s likely that most of us will be busy. Going to work, going out, going to buy presents, food, and all manner of other things. That means driving at a busy time of year when it’s cold, wet, and possibly icy, too.

Winter driving safety tips

So, what can you do to make sure that you arrive at your destination safely? To help you out we’ve gathered some top driving tips for you.

  • Number one and most important of all: plan your journey before you go anywhere. There are plenty of resources to help you do this, including the AA’s route planner and National Highways’ travel alerts. You can also check the weather on the Met Office website and listen to local/national radio for updates. Don’t get caught out – do your homework before you leave, it’ll keep your stress levels down and help you focus on your driving
  • Modern cars often have in-built sat navs with live traffic updates. If you plan to use a sat nav to help you find the best route, make sure you set the destination before you start your journey. Trying to punch in a route once you’re on the move will distract you from concentrating on your driving. If your sat nav is a hand-held device, you MUST NOT hold it while you’re driving. This applies equally to other hand-held devices such as phones and tablets. If the device is held in a cradle of some kind you’ll be able to use it and stay on the right side of the law
  • Check that you can see clearly out of the front, side, and rear windows. You should also check that your numberplate is clearly visible and your headlights/rear lights/side lights are free of dirt and grime. The police can stop you and fine you if they think you cannot see the road and other road users clearly (and/or if your lights and numberplate are hidden by muck), so get yourself a good set of cloths and clean up if you need to
  • If your car is covered in snow, clear it from your windows before you even think about driving. The most effective way to do this is with de-icer spray and a good quality scraper. Whatever you do, do not run inside, fill up the kettle and throw boiling water all over your car. All this will do is cause the windscreen glass to expand, and maybe even crack…which is the last thing you want before you set off
  • Check your tyres for tread and pressure. When the road surface is cold and slippery you need all the grip you can get
  • Top up your engine coolant with antifreeze. Frozen coolant can cause your car to breakdown and do serious damage to your engine. Read this blog for more info if you don’t know how
  • Make sure your windscreen wipers are in good condition and do not leave annoying smears or streaks. If they’re worn, replace them and enjoy the clear view that comes with new wipers
  • Keep your washer bottle topped up and use a brand of screenwash that includes antifreeze. This’ll reduce the chances of it freezing in cold weather
  • If you’ve got air-con, then use it. Warm, dry air will help clear moisture from the inside of your car windows
  • Once you’re out on the road, drive with extra care and attention. Road surfaces are likely to be slippery, with hazards such as mulch from the trees in Autumn and ice in Winter a real possibility. Don’t rush – if you need to be somewhere at a specific time, plan to leave a bit earlier so you give yourself as much opportunity to get there safely as you possibly can.
  • Parking can be a real chore, particularly when it’s raining, and visibility is poor. The good news is that modern tech can help take the headache out of finding a space. Many towns and cities have electronic display boards positioned on ring roads and other suitable places that show how many parking spaces are available in the local car parks. There are also apps that can help you find a spot.

Cold truths

OK, that’s all for this time, but we’ll be back soon with more tips and advice about driving safely in winter. If you can’t wait that long, then head over to the Safe Driving for Life Shop and pick up a copy of The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills. It’s packed full of advice to help you drive safely whatever the time of year.

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