Although it is a very rare occasion that you will experience heavy snow in the UK, it is still vital to ensure that you are fully prepared for these types of conditions. Driving in the ice and snow proves considerably trickier, and the likelihood of accidents is greatly increased. Many drivers worry when it comes to having to drive in the snow, and the greatest piece of advice is if you don’t feel confident, don’t drive. However, if you do there are many tips which can reassure your safety.
Tips For Driving In Snowy Or Icy Conditions
Take a look at our top tips for driving in the ice and snow.
- Plan ahead: Before setting off, spend some time looking through the latest news updates to make yourself aware of any road closures of areas with heavy snow. While driving, rather than listing to your favourite playlist, opt for listening to the news instead just in case.
- Move off in second gear: Snow and ice on the ground is the only exception for not pulling off in first gear. Initially moving off from stationary in second gear while slowing releasing the clutch will reduce the risk of wheel spin. If your wheels spin when setting off, don’t over rev the engine. Your tyres have less grip when spinning and your wheels can dig in deeper, making it harder to move.
- Clear off all ice and snow before setting off: Leave extra time before your journey to clear all traces of snow and ice from your car so that you can achieve full visibility. If you do not remove all snow from the top of your car, it is likely to fall onto your windscreen while driving creating blind spots. Also, ensure that you have de-misted your car before setting off. Never use boiling water to melt ice from your windscreen, it will crack the glass.
- Brake slowly and smoothly: Braking too quick on ice will cause your wheels to lock and is the biggest cause of skidding. Keep braking slow and smooth, especially when turning corners, don’t worry about holding other drivers up, remember everyone is in the same boat. If your car doesn’t have anti-lock-brakes, release and reapply your brakes if you start to skid.
- Bring sunglasses: There should already be a spare pair on sunglasses in your car for driving in the sun, but these will also be handy for when there is snow on the ground. Sun will reflect against the white snow causing a huge glare so keep visibility at a high by wearing sunglasses.
- Use dipped headlights: If snow is falling heavily, even if it is during the day, switch on your dipped headlights to ensure that even if your car gets covered in snow, other drivers will still be aware of you.
- Leave space: Make sure to leave more space than you normally would between you and the car in front. They may come into trouble and slip backwards or skid; so by increasing the gap between you and them, you’ll be far enough away should they experience any problems.
- Steer smoothly: Don’t change directions suddenly or steer too quickly as this will increase your chances of skidding and losing control of your vehicle. When turning from a major onto a minor road, be prepared for the smaller road to be icy, as these are rarely treated by gritters so can be extremely slippy.
- Drive in a high gear: Drive in as high a gear as possible to help prevent your wheels from spinning. When slowing down, change to a lower gear earlier than normal so that the engine can hold the car back as well as the brakes. This is especially effective on hills.
- Hidden markings: Be aware that road markings and signs may well be hidden underneath snow, so you’ll need to pay close attention in order to spot them and adjust your driving accordingly.
What Happens If There Is Ice and Snow On The Day Of Your Test?
What will happen if it snows on the day of my test?
If snow has settled, or the ground is icy on the day of your test, call your test centre a couple of hours before your test. You can find the necessary contact details on your test booking confirmation. If your test is first thing in the morning, call as soon as possible. If it is in the afternoon, wait out until an hour or so before your test is due to the start, weather changes quickly so try to call as close to the time as you can.
What test routes will I do if it snows or is icy?
Your examiner will check a handful of routes and see whether any routes are fully safe and all surfaces are clear. A test route including mainly main roads which have been gritted may still go ahead. If a test route consists of a lot of country roads or residential areas, your test is unlikely to go ahead.
What happens if my test gets cancelled?
If your test gets cancelled due to adverse weather conditions, the DVSA will arrange the test for you; they will aim to book you in for the closest available test possible. You should hear back from them within 3-7 days with full details.
Advice From An Instructor
We spoke to Alec Crump who is a driving instructor in Luton, which is an area known for being heavily built up with housing estates and new grid systems, about teaching driving lessons in Luton in winter conditions.
“Over the past 10 years of teaching pupils in Luton, I’ve had to constantly alter the way I teach to suit the new changes in the town. Of course, if the weather has reached a dangerous stage, lessons won’t go ahead, but I find that I’m quite lucky with roads being cleared from ice because of all of the traffic coming to and from the airport. I always try to encourage my pupils to face their fears and brave driving in harder conditions, the more practice they can get with me in the car for support, the more confident they’ll become when they’re faced with driving alone!”