Motorist wet and winter driving

When snow or icy roads are forecast you should adjust your driving to suit the conditions. Black ice isn't always visible and so can be an even greater hazard for both motorists and pedestrians.

Black ice may be formed when rain or drizzle fall on a road surface which is at a temperature below zero. We recommend that you familiarise yourself with many of the essential precautions below before driving your car.

Details of car breakdown cover
Spare tyre and a jack
Warning Triangle
Mobile phone and appropriate car charger
Pen and paper
Brightly coloured jacket (waterproof if possible)
Tow rope
Jump leads
Basic toolkit including pliers, screwdriver etc
Bottled water

Tips for

What to do before you set off

  • You MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows
  • You MUST ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible
  • Make sure the mirrors are clear and the windows are demisted thoroughly
  • Remove all snow that might fall off into the path of other road users
  • Check your planned route is clear of delays and that no further snowfalls or severe weather are predicted
  • Turn on your traffic alerts on your car radio
  • Check your tyre treads are above the minimum safe level of 1.6mm

Driving in wet weather

In wet weather, stopping distances will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads. This is because your tyres have less grip on the road.

  • You should keep well back from the vehicle in front. This will increase your ability to see and plan ahead
  • If the steering becomes unresponsive, it probably means that water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road. Ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually
  • The rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen
  • Be aware of the dangers of spilt diesel that will make the surface very slippery
  • Take extra care around pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders

Driving in icy or snowy weather

When driving in icy or snowy weather you should:

  • Drive with care, even if the roads have been treated
  • Keep well back from the car in front as stopping distances can be ten times greater than on dry roads
  • Take care when overtaking vehicles spreading salt or other de-icer, particularly if you are riding a motorcycle or cycle
  • Watch out for snowploughs which may throw out snow on either side. Do not overtake them unless the lane you intend to use has been cleared
  • Be prepared for the road conditions to change over relatively short distances
  • Listen to travel bulletins and take note of variable message signs that may provide information about weather, road and traffic conditions ahead
  • Avoid sudden actions as these could cause loss of control
  • Drive at a slow speed in as high a gear as possible; accelerate and brake very gently
  • Drive particularly slowly on bends where loss of control is more likely
  • Brake progressively on the straight before you reach a bend. Having slowed down, steer smoothly round the bend, avoiding sudden actions
  • Check your grip on the road surface when there is snow or ice by choosing a safe place to brake gently
  • If the steering feels unresponsive this may indicate ice and your vehicle losing its grip on the road. When travelling on ice, tyres make virtually no noise

For more information on driving in adverse weather conditions - Directgov covers the driving code and safety issues