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IAM RoadSmart’s guide to safe driving in ice and snow

With the Met Office warning that snow and ice could bring travel disruption and risks of injury in parts of the UK, Richard Gladman, head of driving and riding standards at IAM RoadSmart, provides tips for drivers on staying safe on the roads.

  • Key advice includes to avoid driving in bad conditions unless essential. Even when frost thaws, ice will stay around areas that are often shaded or near bridges that are exposed to wind-chill. Consider how you drive through these micro-climates and be prepared to slow down if you need to. Remember in extreme conditions minor routes may not have been visited by the council gritting lorry.
  • Make sure you have cleared your windows, side mirrors and lights before starting your journey and use the heater settings to remove mist and condensation. Avoid using hot water to pour over your windscreen as it’s likely that it will freeze up again. Most modern locks have plastic components so never apply direct heat to a door lock.
  • Keep an eye on your tyres. The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm – but for safe travel, you should not let the depth go below 3mm. Whatever you do, avoid travelling with worn tyres at all costs as this will increase the likelihood of your car skidding. If you can afford them, winter tyres do offer a real grip advantage.
  • If you’re driving a manual vehicle, avoid using high revs and set off gently in second gear. This will improve control and reduce the risk of your wheels spinning. If you’re driving an automatic vehicle, select the ‘winter’ mode (if there is one), which will automatically lockout first gear and reduce the risk of wheel spin – if unsure, refer to your handbook for more advice.
  • If your car loses grip you should take your foot off the accelerator and point the front wheels in the direction you want them to go. All steering and braking inputs must be as gentle as possible in icy conditions. Front-wheel-drive vehicles are generally better in icy conditions, but if your car is a rear-wheel-drive always take it extra slow and steady when changing direction.
  • Increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front, especially in slippery conditions. The Highway Code suggests double the distance in the wet and up to 10 times in snow and ice. The same applies for when you’re approaching a junction or a sharp bend – drive at a steady speed that allows you to stop well within the available distance.

Written by Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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