Top tips for bad weather driving

Although the colder weather can transform the landscape into a winter wonderland, driving throughout the season can present a host of different challenges for drivers to face. Whether you have years of experience or are someone who will be navigating the wintery roads for the first time, taking extra care on the roads during winter is a necessity. However, these other useful tips will ensure that you have a safe journey, every time.

Slow down

A Ford car steering wheel

As the temperature begins to drop, ice and frost can cause havoc on the roads. This, paired with the low visibility caused by falling snow and thick fog, can make for a difficult journey. Slowing down is imperative, especially when you have low visibility, as it means that you have longer reaction times. Taking your time allows you to assess the upcoming road and make decisions on whether or not it is safe to continue on your way. Additionally, it means that you can be more observant of other drivers who might not be being so careful.

With patches of fog, although they may have appeared to clear, it is important to maintain a steady speed as there is an increased chance that you’ll enter another patch. Additionally, snow can fall fast, suddenly changing the road conditions. You should use dipped headlights to alert other drivers of your presence and when visibility is below 100m, fog lights should be switched on.

PowerBulbs, a global company who have been selling headlights for over 35 years, recommend that you check all of your lights before setting off on a long journey, especially your headlights and signalling bulbs. “The last thing you want is to be caught out with a failed bulb. Not only will your own view be impaired, but you’ll also be less visible to others – two crucial elements of driving at night time or poor weather conditions.”

Whilst driving in snowy conditions, using a high gear whilst accelerating gently lowers the chances of wheel spin, and soft breaking prevents your wheels from locking. Due to the need for breaking softly, it is recommended that you leave larger gaps than usual in between you and other cars when travelling both uphill and downhill.

Stay vigilant

Traffic lights in London

According to Insure The Box, drivers are 20% more likely to be involved in a crash during winter than at any other time of the year. So, one of the best ways to minimise the chances is by staying vigilant of other drivers and allowing extra time to complete manoeuvres. Low visibility makes it harder for you to spot hazards, so drivers should always keep their eyes peeled for any potential problems. Additionally, although you may feel confident driving in the wintery conditions, other road users can be experiencing a range of different emotions, from apprehension to arrogance, so they might be behaving unpredictably.

Your stopping distance grows tenfold in snowy conditions, which means you should take into consideration abrupt braking by other cars. However, you should also use this tactic if heavy rain starts to hinder your journey. When the roads are wet, there is a chance that your wheels could lose contact with the road, something that is called aquaplaning. Keeping your distance and driving at reduced speeds means that the brake isn’t necessary, allowing your vehicle to regain control quicker.

Plan your journey

A car driving through snowy mountains

When you’re driving at a slower speed, it makes sense to take extra time into consideration for your journey. However, it is also important to think about additional obstacles you may be likely to face, such as fallen trees and road diversions. Planning your journey means that you have alternate routes should a problem arise and means that you can make educated decisions as to whether or not you should continue with the rest of the journey, should the bad weather persist.

When it comes to planning, you should always think about the return journey also. Are you making an unnecessary journey that you’ll have to return from later? If so, you’ll need to look at the future weather forecast to see if the conditions are expected to improve later on. Highways England have up-to-date traffic reports, so you can take a look at any delays you may face, which can be found on their website.

Be prepared

Cars covered in snow

Danny from blog DannyUK shared some useful tips about driving in wintery conditions with us: “If I know I'm going to be driving in really bad weather then I'd consider snow chains or winter tyres.  Other than that, and for the ever-changing UK weather, I make sure that my tyres and oil are at the right pressure, I have de-icer and an ice scraper in the car and I always keep a spare blanket in the boot, just in case I ever get stranded anywhere.”

Emma from PowerBulbs also agrees that being prepared is imperative: “I also make sure that I travel with a coat, scarf and gloves. I learnt this the hard way last year – waiting for a mechanic is very cold!”

Although planning can allow you to make provisions for potential diversions that you may need, it is also important that you’re prepared for situations that you can’t predict, such as a change in weather or problems with your car. We have written a guide on some car essentials that you should have in your used Ford car at all times, but here is a list to recap:

  • Folding shovel
  • Phone Charger
  • Torch
  • Screen wash
  • Reflective triangles
  • Blanket