Travelling in severe weather
In severe weather conditions, your journey could take longer than expected. The Highways Agency looks after England’s motorways and major A roads, local authorities look after all the other roads.
You need to take even more care driving on minor roads, as not every road can be treated. Even where they have been treated it’s not the same as driving on a clear, dry road in the summer.
Before travelling in bad weather, you should:
- Check the weather forecast and road conditions
- Consider whether you need to travel right now or if you can wait until the weather improves
- Consider alternative routes
- Consider alternative modes of transport
- Allow extra time for your journey
- Make sure your car is ready for a journey in poor weather
- Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged
- Set your car radio to auto travel bulletins
- Tell someone your destination and when you expect to arrive
Carry a winter kit
Gather together the following items and pack in your vehicle at the start of the winter season, you never know when you might need them!
- Ice scraper and de-icer
- Torch and spare batteries – or a wind-up torch
- Warm clothes and blankets – for you and all passengers
- First aid kit
- Jump leads
- A shovel
- Road atlas
- Sunglasses (the low winter sun and glare off snow can be dazzling)
In addition, when setting out on journeys during the winter season, remember to take with you:
- Food and a thermos with a hot drink
- Any medication you, or other people travelling with you, need to take regularly.
Driving in ice and snow
- Clear any snow off the roof of the vehicle before you drive away.
- Stick to the main roads where you can and avoid exposed routes.
- Steep hills and exposed roads are also likely to present more challenging driving conditions in snow and ice, so if you could avoid these it might make your journey easier.
- Watch out for icy conditions – look for clues such as ice on the pavement or on your windscreen before you start your journey and take extra care.
- Try not to brake suddenly – it may lock up your wheels and you could skid further.
- Leave extra space between you and other vehicles. Take even more care looking out for others that may not be able to stop and be extra cautious at road junctions where road markings may not be visible.
- Look out for winter service vehicles spreading salt or using snow ploughs. They have flashing amber beacons and travel at slower speeds – around 40 mph. Stay well back because salt or spray can be thrown across the road. Do not overtake unless it is safe to do so – there may be uncleared snow on the road ahead.
Driving in rain and floods
- When the road is wet it can take twice as long to stop. Slow down and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
- If your vehicle loses grip (aquaplanes) on surface water, take your foot off the accelerator to slow down. Do not brake or steer suddenly because you have less control of the steering and brakes.
- Try to avoid driving through surface water as you might flood your engine.
- If you have to drive through floods, drive slowly, use a low gear and try to keep the engine revving at a high rate. Move forward continuously to avoid stalling the engine. When driving an automatic vehicle, engage and hold in a low gear.
- Test your brakes after driving through water; they may be ineffective.
Driving in fog
- Use dipped headlights so that other drivers can see you.
- If it is foggy (less than 100m visibilities) then switch on your fog lights. Do not forget to turn them off when conditions improve.
- Fog is often patchy so try not to speed up as visibility improves. You could suddenly find yourself back in thick fog further up the road.
Driving in windy weather
- Take extra care on the roads and plan your journey by checking the latest weather conditions.
- Though high-sided vehicles are particularly affected by windy weather, strong winds can also blow other vehicles off course. This can happen on open stretches of road exposed to strong crosswinds, or when passing bridges, high-sided vehicles or gaps in trees.
Using public transport
Check with the public transport operator before travelling. You could also listen to your local radio station as they will have regular travel updates.
Cycling and walking
- If cycling, ensure you and your bike are visible to other road users.
- Consider heavier duty tyres to cope with slippery surfaces and get a routine bike maintenance check.
- Wear clothes that help you be seen on your bike such as bright and light reflective items.
- Get a good set of mud guards.
- British Cycling have produced a range of useful ‘How to’ guides – a number of which will help you prepare for cycling in winter weather.
- If walking in bad conditions, take the usual sensible precautions – wear appropriate footwear and clothing.
- Consider getting ice grips to wear over your shoes – this can give you an extra grip in icy conditions.