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To help you drive in winter we have some guidance on how to stay safe and avoid an accident or breakdown. 

 Driving on gritted roads 

It is important to know that: 

  • it takes time for salt to work after gritting the roads
  • rain can wash salt off roads leaving them prone to re-icing 
  • in severe weather even salt will not stop roads from icing up 

Before setting off 

 You should: 

  •  consider if your journey is necessary
  • make sure your screen wash bottle is topped up 
  • make sure your car windows are clear 
  • check the weather forecasts 
  • consider alternative routes 
  • allow enough time for your journey 

See and be seen 

During daytime in the winter visibility might be poor due to the weather conditions. You should use dipped headlights to make your vehicle seen. 

 If visibility is seriously reduced due to fog or mist you should use your rear fog lights. Remember to turn them off when visibility improves so you do not dazzle other road users. 

You should check: 

  • your windscreen and all windows are clear and unobstructed 
  • windscreen wipers and washers are in good working order 
  • the washer bottle has screen wash suitable for the time of year 
  • all lights and indicators are clean and work 
  • you have a screen scraper and de-icer 

Check your tyres 

In wet and freezing conditions the grip between your tyres and the road is severely reduced. 

You should check that all your tyres including the spare have plenty of tread depth. They should be in a good condition and inflated to the correct pressure. You can find out more on the TyreSafe website.

It’s important your vehicle is well maintained and serviced for winter conditions. Make sure to check if there is anti-freeze in the cooling system and that the battery is in good condition, charged and topped up. 

When driving 

You should: 

  • watch your speed and drive to the road conditions and the speed limit
  • watch out for cold shaded spots and road bridges 
  • be aware it can be difficult to read road signs in poor weather conditions 
  • avoid harsh braking and sudden acceleration 
  • drive in the highest gear possible in icy conditions to avoid wheel spin 
  • keep a safe stopping distance at all times and remember to increase this in wet or icy conditions 
  • give space to gritters and snowploughs and do not overtake them 
  • watch out for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, and motorcycles  
  • take regular breaks as driver fatigue increases in poor weather conditions 

What to take on a long journey 

You should take: 

  • mobile phone to use only when it’s legal and safe to do so 
  • extra warm clothing 
  • torch 
  • rug, blanket or sleeping bag 
  • shovel 
  • flask of hot drink or food 
  • radio 

If you get stranded 

You must pull as far off the road as possible if your vehicle breaks down. Your greatest personal danger at this point is being hit by passing vehicles. 

It is recommended to:  

  • stay with your vehicle unless shelter is nearby 
  • maintain your circulation by moving your body
  • use the engine to keep warm unless the exhaust cannot vent
  • keep your vehicles airways clear if snowed over 

It is important your vehicle does not block access for emergency vehicles. Abandoned and stationary vehicles can stop gritters from accessing some roads.

If you breakdown on a motorway you must: 

  • put your hazard lights on
  • move your vehicle on to the hard shoulder 
  • exit your vehicle through the passenger door if possible 
  • stand behind the crash barrier  
  • contact the break down services 

If you breakdown on a smart motorway: 

  • put your hazard lights on 
  • try to reach an Emergency Refuge Area (ERA) 
  • exit your vehicle through the passenger door if possible 
  • use the emergency SOS telephone in the ERA 
  • stand behind the crash barrier  

You can find more information on the National Highways website. 

Find more advice 

You can find more advice on driving in severe weather from the Met Office

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