What should you do when driving in snowy conditions: Do's and don'ts

What should you do when driving in snowy conditions: Do's and don'ts

Driving in snowy conditions means you’re likely to have less grip and lower visibility. Maintaining a steady speed, avoiding hard braking, and accelerating slowly can help to prevent skidding and keep you safe on the road.

Below we’ve outlined our tips for driving in snowy conditions.

The do’s of driving in snowy conditions

Before you leave:

  • Plan your route - If you need to travel, be sure to plan your journey carefully. Driving on gritted main roads when possible is preferable. Avoiding busy motorways and small lanes that might not be gritted is often a safer bet.
  • Check weather reports - Keep updated on changes to weather conditions and listen to traffic updates for your route on the radio.
  • Clear your car of snow - Making sure your whole car is clear of snow is mandatory in the UK. This includes your roof, lights, and number plates. It’s a great idea to top up your washer fluid with some antifreeze to help make sure your windscreen doesn't ice over while driving.
  • Check your tyres - Grip is important when driving in snow, and very worn tyres can cause problems. You might even consider putting on winter tyres, snow socks, or snow chains (more on that below).
  • Be prepared - Having an emergency breakdown pack in your car could help if you get stuck in snow. This could include some food, drinks, warm clothes, a high-vis jacket and an orange triangle. Packing sunglasses could also be a good idea, as glare from snow on the road can be very bright.

For more tips on clearing your windscreen, you can check out our blog ‘How to stop car windows from fogging up

On your journey

  • Drive carefully - Driving in snowy conditions can be unpredictable. Keeping a steady, safe pace and paying close attention to your surroundings are important for driving safely.
  • Maintain low revs and high gears - When moving off from a snowy surface, starting from 2nd gear and getting into the higher gears as quickly as possible will help you find grip and prevent wheelspin.
  • Take care on hills - When going uphill, leave plenty of room for the car in front to make sure you can keep a steady speed the whole way up without having to brake or change gear. When going downhill, stay in a low gear and try to avoid any heavy braking.
  • Watch out for icy corners - Ice can build up, so brake gently before corners and try not to brake when turning. If you lose grip, it’s often advised to ease off the accelerator, and turn the way you want to go.
  • Turn into a slide - If you do start to skid, the traditional advice is to lift off the accelerator fully, avoid hitting the brakes and gently steer into the skid. This allows the car to pass over the ice until there’s enough grip to straighten again.
  • Keep your headlights on - Visibility can be low when it’s snowing, so it’s best to keep your headlights on so you can see, and so you’re visible to other cars around you.

For more information on driving in icy conditions, check out our blog ‘What would suggest you’re driving on ice?

The don'ts of driving in snowy conditions

  • Heavy braking - Braking distance in snowy conditions can be 10 times what it would be normally. Sudden braking could cause you to lose grip and skid. Gentle, slow braking is the way to go in the snow.
  • Sudden acceleration - Accelerating quickly in snow can cause loss of grip and wheelspin. Keeping your car in low rev ranges and accelerating slowly will help to maintain grip.
  • Sharp turns - Turning sharply can cause spinning or skidding. Taking corners slowly when driving in the snow is a good idea.

Winter tyres vs snow chains vs snow socks

Having tyres with a good tread depth is important in making sure you can keep grip with the road in snowy conditions. If you don’t think your normal tyres are up to the job, there are a few alternatives that can give you more grip and help you to feel more confident when driving in the snow:

Winter tyres

Winter tyres have a special pattern in the tread that gives you a better grip in the snow. They’re also made from a rubber compound that keeps them flexible, even when they’re cold and wet. Winter tyres aren’t required for driving in the snow in the UK, but they can be a good idea if you live in rural areas where the roads don’t get gritted very often.

Snow chains

Snow chains are sets of chains that cover your tyres, and are designed to be used when driving over compacted snow. It’s best to take them off if you’re not driving directly on snow, as they can damage your car. Some countries require you to keep snow chains in your car, but you probably won’t need them when driving in the snow in the UK.

Snow socks

Snow socks are a textile layer that fit snugly over your tyres to provide extra grip, in the same way that snow chains would. They’re a lot easier to put on than snow chains, and can be a good alternative in the UK. Snow socks are especially useful for moving off a snowy driveway, so it can be worth keeping a set in the boot.

For more advice on checking your tyres before you travel, check out our blog ‘What pressure should my car tyres be?

A few final tips…

These are our final tips for driving in the snow in the UK:

  • Driving in freezing conditions can cause circumstances to change quickly, so it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings.
  • Moving off a snowy surface requires a combination of grip and slow, steady power. Keeping your revs low and starting in 2nd gear can help to prevent wheelspin.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.