How to drive safely on snowy and icy roads

As snow turns to black ice in the UK, here are expert tips on driving safely on arctic roads.

As Britain’s roads enter their second treacherous week under ice and snow, accidents have been mounting.

The AA estimates there have been 7,000 cars damaged in four days alone thanks to the icy conditions.

To try and help you avoid this fate, Yahoo! Cars has rounded up the best tips for driving in wintry weather.


Before you set off:
  • Pack an emergency kit - Prepare for both breakdowns and accidents; travel with a torch and blanket and some food in case you find yourself stranded in the cold. If you have it, some high-visibility clothing as in heavy snow or rain you could be hard to spot. An ice scraper and antifreeze could be useful to get moving again too. Check that mobile phones are fully charged and you have your breakdown insurance number with you
  • Check your tyres - Winter tyres are ideal for snowy and icy roads, but regular tyres should suffice for most roads. Check tyres are in good condition, you at least have the 1.6mm legal tread and your tyres are inflated to the levels advised in your car’s handbook
  • Lights - Check that all your headlights and brake lights are working before you set off and have your car serviced ready for the winter
  • De-ice your car - Not properly de-icing your car is dangerous for you and other drivers and could also result in a fine and points on your licence as it’s illegal to drive with obscured vision. Clearing the snow from the top of your car too as it can fall over your windscreen while driving.

Getting about:
  • Plan ahead - Leave plenty of time for your car journey and make trips during daylight hours rather than in the dark when possible
  • Footwear - Wear comfortable, dry shoes for driving. Cumbersome, snow-covered boots or shoes covered in snow can slip on the pedals
  • Leave more space - Snow falling from the car in front or black ice on the roads can cause an accident no matter how experienced you are.  The AA points out stopping distances can be 10 times longer in ice and snow
  • Gentle manoeuvres - When braking or turning a corner, try to do so as gently as possible, easing off the throttle instead of hitting the brakes when possible. The more gently you accelerate or decelerate, the less likely you are to lose traction and skid – and if you do, you’re in a better position to control your car
  • Brake gently - A locked wheel on ice will do nothing to slow your car. Release the brakes and de-clutch if the car skids and gently re-apply the brakes
  • Pull away in second gear - Ease your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin
  • Up hill - Avoid having to stop part way up by waiting until it is clear of other cars or by leaving plenty of room from the car in front. Keep a constant speed, choosing the most suitable gear well in advance to avoid having to change down on the hill
  • Down hill - Reduce your speed before the hill, use a low gear and try to avoid using the brakes. Leave as much room as possible between you and the car in front
  • Automatic transmission - In slippery, snowy conditions it's best to select '2', which limits the gear changes and also makes you less reliant on the brakes. Some autos have a “winter” mode which locks out first gear to reduce the risk of wheel spin

  • If you get stuck -  Straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels. Put a an old rug, stout cardboard or even your car mats in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip. Once on the move again, try not to stop until you reach firmer ground

Tips from the AA, GoCompare and Post Office car insurance experts
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