22 November 2018

Winter driving conditions: staying safe on the roads

Darker nights and adverse conditions can make roads significantly more hazardous, and a history of prolonged wet weather has meant that preparation is key.

Knowing how to adapt and what to look out for can help you to avoid a road accident this winter.

Slippery conditions

Heavy rain

Wet roads can affect stopping distances, so it is essential to reduce your speed to avoid skidding and collisions. Extend the distance between your vehicle and others by twice the usual amount, and brake much sooner than you normally would. Keep away from deep water, often found near kerbsides, and ensure your vehicle is prepared for slippery conditions with suitable tyre pressure and tread depth to avoid aquaplaning. Test your brakes and windscreen wipers frequently, so they work effectively in worsened conditions.

Black ice

Whilst icy conditions are already dangerous, black ice makes driving even riskier. When temperatures are sub-zero, it is necessary to take extra caution. Always anticipate junctions ahead to avoid harsh braking, take turns slowly and smoothly and expect roads to be icy even though you may not see it. Isolated patches of ice can still be present after the road has thawed, for example under bridges and in shaded areas.


Like on icy surfaces, in snowy weather vehicles can be more likely to spin. To slow down on snow, instead of braking, lift the accelerator early which allows the speed to drop naturally. When using the brakes, apply gentle pressure whilst pressing the clutch to avoid stalling. Clear snow from the roof before setting off and if necessary, start your car in second gear. Snow usually reduces visibility so it can be helpful to turn fog lights on, as well as stopping frequently to clean your windows, lights and number plates.

Reduced visibility

Darker nights

Daylight saving means that the busiest period on the road is during darkness in winter. It is much harder to determine how far away cars are, on slip roads and at junctions, when your judgement is based on vehicle lights. Be patient and cautious, especially towards cars who may flash to let you go. Ensure your lights are in working order and get a friend to check your brake lights. When the roads are muddy, lights can become easily covered with dirt so keep them clean to be seen.


Foggy weather is one of the most difficult and dangerous conditions to drive in. To ensure full concentration, remove any distractions; switch off the radio, and open the window slightly to listen out for traffic. This is particularly important at junctions such as crossroads, where approaching cars may not be seen. Beware of speeding up with improved visibility as fog can be patchy and quickly result in blind conditions once again. Use your fog lights when necessary, but turn them off when the fog has cleared to avoid dazzling other road users.

Winter sun

The sunlight in winter is often dazzling, coming from a low angle which your visor cannot reach. Keep your inner and outer windscreen clean to reduce glare and wear sunglasses in bright spells. When the sun goes in or the light dulls down, take off your sunglasses to improve optical clarity. Be particularly aware of vehicles travelling in the same direction who will also be affected, as well as vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists, who are trickier to see.

Carry an emergency kit and keep your fluids topped up, such as engine antifreeze and windscreen wash which requires the correct concentration to prevent it freezing. Allow extra time for winter journeys as speed reduction is often the key to safer roads, both in winter and all year round.

Plan your routes on major roads which have been cleared or gritted, and listen for weather forecasts and travel news – if it is advised not to drive unless necessary, make it necessary not to drive. But always know the simple steps to follow if you are involved in an accident.

If you have been affected by a road traffic accident, our personal injury team can help you. To find out more about our services, click here.

Banner by Alexus at Thorpepark Academy Primary School

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