How to drive in snow and ice

Advanced 5 minute read 1 year ago

Heavy snow is a rare occurrence in the UK; however, it is vital to ensure you know how to drive if you are battling these conditions. Driving in the snow and ice can be tricky and sometimes dangerous due to the increased likelihood of an accident. It is common for more drivers to feel nervous about driving than they usually would, but the best advice when it comes to driving in the snow is if you don't feel confident driving, then do not drive in those conditions.


Tips for driving in the snow and ice

You may have to drive in snowy or icy conditions; because of this, we have created a list of top tips to help keep you safe.

Plan Ahead

Before you leave, look through the latest news to ensure you know of any road closures or areas with heavy snowfall. When you are driving, it would also help to listen to traffic updates in case of any issues with your journey.

Moving off in Second Gear

If the ground is covered in snow and ice, pulling off in second gear is better than pulling off in first gear. Moving off in second gear whilst slowly releasing the clutch will reduce the risk of wheel spin. If they start to spin, don't rev your engine, as your wheels may dig deeper, making it harder to move.

Clear all snow and ice from the car

If you are preparing to leave, you notice snow and ice on your car; you must clear this before heading off. You must leave extra time before leaving for your journey to remove all of this. If you do not remove all snow from the top of your car, it will likely fall onto your windscreen while driving, creating blind spots. Also, ensure that you have de-misted your car before setting off. Never use boiling water to melt ice from your windscreen; it will crack the glass.

Brake slowly and smoothly

If you brake too quickly on the ice, it will cause your wheels to lock, and it is the most significant cause of skidding. You must brake slowly and smoothly, especially going around corners. You shouldn't worry about holding other drivers up as they should also be driving cautiously. If you do not have anti-lock brakes, release and reapply your brakes if you begin to skid.

Use dipped headlights

You should always use dipped headlights if heavy snow falls, even if it is light outside. You should switch on your headlights to ensure that other drivers can still see you even if your car gets covered in snow.

Leave extra space

It is best to leave extra space from the car in front than you usually would. This is advised because if they come into trouble and begin to slip backwards or skid, having the extra distance will reduce your risk of colliding with them.

Steer smoothly

Don't steer suddenly or too quickly when driving, as this increases your chances of skidding and losing control. When you turn from a major to a minor road, be prepared for the minor road to be icy, as the gritters rarely treat these.

Drive in a higher gear

When driving, if you are in a higher gear, it will prevent your wheels from spinning. When you are slowing down, change to a lower gear earlier than normal, so the engine can hold the car back and the brakes; this is very effective on hills.

Hidden road markings

Be aware that road markings and signs may be hidden underneath the snow, so you'll need to pay close attention to spot them and adjust your driving accordingly.


What happens if there is snow and ice on your test?

If you wake up and discover snow or ice on the ground on your test day, we recommend you call your test centre a couple of hours before your test. You can find the necessary contact details on your test booking confirmation. If your test is first thing in the morning, call as soon as possible. If it is in the afternoon, wait out until an hour or so before your test is due to the start, weather changes quickly, so try to call as close to the time as you can.

Your examiner will check a handful of routes and see whether any routes are fully safe and all surfaces are clear. A test route, including mainly main roads, which have been gritted, may still go ahead. If a test route consists of a lot of country roads or residential areas, your test is unlikely to go ahead.

If your test gets cancelled due to adverse weather conditions, the DVSA will arrange the test for you; they will aim to book you in for the closest available test possible. You should hear back from them within 3-7 days with full details.

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