Travelling Safely in Winter

January 27, 2021

It is an unfortunate fact that with harsh winter conditions and reduced visibility – vehicle accidents become much more likely to occur. Here are some of the most effective things you should be doing to stay safe out on the road this winter.

Winter Car & Bike Maintenance:

Although vehicle maintenance is essential at all times of year to ensure that your bike or car is road worthy, you will rely on safety features such as exterior lights and the tread in your tyres even more during the dark winter months.

If you commute during office hours you may not use your headlights much at all during the summer and so it may not immediately obvious if a bulb breaks. As the sun sets earlier and earlier – you will no doubt be relying on your lights more often. Checking each and every bulb is working correctly is essential to ensure that you can see and be seen by others on the road.

To check each light is in working order, turn them all on along with your hazard lights and walk around the entire car/bike on each one (don’t forget the fog lights!) and replace any broken bulbs as soon as possible.

Depending on your local climate, you should consider using winter tyres. Winter tyres are only effective when the average weekly temperature falls below 7°C (44.6 °F) due to being comprised of a softer rubber compound that helps maximise grip in the cold. For most drivers in the UK, all season tyres are sufficient but no matter what tyres you rely on, you must ensure that you have plenty of tread depth left on them. The legal minimum tyre tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm for cars and 1mm for motorcycles however we would strongly recommend changing them much sooner. Having at least 3mm tread depth on your tyres will help them pack in snow & ice and ensure you can maintain sufficient contact with the road.

Before you set off:

Spreading grit on the roads makes travelling on them much safer as the salt helps melt any snow & ice. You can find out what roads are gritted by your local council and plan your commute accordingly if the road conditions are particularly bad. It is a good idea to have a 2nd route planned just in case your 1st choice is blocked or inaccessible.

The Great British weather is notoriously unpredictable, which means in the winter months, snow and ice can form on the roads at almost any time. If you have woken up to a fresh blanket of snow, before you rush off to your destination ensure that everything is de-iced properly, ensuring that the windscreen along with the side windows and rear window are completely de-iced. Many people often forget about (or even ignore) the roof of the car, but this should be free of snow before you move. If snow is built up on the roof it can easily slide down onto your windscreen obscuring your vision or even fly off and land onto the car behind you which can smash the windscreen at high speed!

Driving Technique in Harsh Weather:

Ice and snow on the roads make travelling on them much more dangerous and present a unique challenge to overcome. Here are some tips to help you navigate the harsh winter weather.

  • If you are struggling to get your car moving in heavy snow, try starting off in 2nd gear (manual transmission) and slowly ease off the clutch. This reduces the torque sent to the wheels and may help get you out of a tough patch of snow. Most modern automatic transmission vehicles come with a snow mode that helps in the same way.
  • Drive in a higher gear than normal: By driving in a higher gear than normal can help improve control of the vehicle and prevent sliding.
  • Slow Down: This tip is self-explanatory however it unfortunately seems to be lost on some drivers. When snow & ice is on the road it can cause your stopping distance to be up to 10x longer than normal! That is an astounding statistic and it is easy to see why driving carelessly in winter can have grave consequences. Just remember to slow it down and take your time.
  • Don’t Panic if you slide: Panicking never helps anything, and so if you start to lose control of your vehicle in harsh winter conditions try to remain calm and refrain from slamming on the breaks or swerving heavily. This is difficult as it is a natural response however to recover correctly you should avoid breaking if possible and slowly steer into the skid to prevent over-correcting or spinning out. If you must use the breaks, gently ease onto them.
  • Pack a small emergency bag: Accidents unfortunately do happen, so we recommend keeping a small winter bag of essentials with you just in case the worst does happen. Things like bottled water, warm gloves/hat, torch, and a phone charger compatible with your vehicle can be a lifesaver if you are waiting to be recovered.