Driving tips
Winter road safety

Driving tips

How to stay safe on the road no matter the weather

Driving in wet weather

Our advice would be not to travel in heavy rain storms unless absolutely necessary, but if you do have to travel, consider the following:

  • spray on road surfaces can decrease visibility, so reduce driving speeds and allow additional time to stop safely on wet roads
  • increase your distance from the vehicle in front to improve your ability to see and plan ahead
  • use headlights as rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen
  • if steering becomes unresponsive, it probably means that water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road - ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually
  • test your brakes at the first safe opportunity if you have driven through deep water as they may be less effective; if they are not fully effective, gently apply light pressure while driving slowly, this will help to dry them out

Flood water and river fords

We would always recommend taking particular care before attempting to cross flood water/fords:

  • avoid entering river fords during or after periods of rainfall - remember a car can be swept away in as little as two feet of water
  • always pay attention to warning devices, such as depth gauges
  • If in any doubt, do not enter the water in a vehicle or on foot - find an alternative route
  • motorists should slow down, cross in lower gears and keep revs up to maintain pressure in the exhaust to prevent water getting into the engine
  • if water is safe to enter, always test your vehicle brakes on exiting

General road safety tips

  • making or receiving calls on your mobile, even using a hands-free phone, can distract your attention from driving and could lead to an accident
  • always wear your seat belt, even in the back of the car - remember that in a crash, an unbelted rear seat passenger can kill or seriously injure the driver or a front seat passenger
  • any alcohol, even a small amount, can impair your driving, so to be a safe driver don't drink and drive
  • driving under the influence of drugs - whether prescribed medication or illegal substances - is just as dangerous as driving when drunk and is also against the law
  • slow down; at 35 miles per hour (mph) you are twice as likely to kill someone you hit as at 30 mph
  • consider pedestrians; children, adults and the elderly can act impulsively - take extra care near buses and ice cream vans when children might be around
  • falling asleep at the wheel is thought to be a major factor in more than 10% of road accidents and up to 20% on motorways and similar roads - plan to stop for at least a 15-minute break every two hours on a long journey
  • when crossing a road always use a pedestrian crossing if there is one nearby - help others to see you by wearing fluorescent or reflective clothing in poor light conditions
  • observe and anticipate other road users - use your mirrors regularly and don't forget to glance into your blind area before changing your course - motorcyclists, in particular, are often not seen
  • look out for motorcyclists - they represent less than 1% of road traffic but account for 18% of deaths and serious injuries and are 40 times more likely to be killed than a car driver
  • make sure children under 150 cms tall (about 5ft) use a child restraint suitable for their size - check they fit properly every trip
  • always keep a two-second gap between you and the car in front

Winter driving - driving in snow/ice

Bad weather can strike suddenly so the best advice when severe weather hits is to stay off the road. If your journey is essential, make sure you are prepared for the conditions:

  • ask yourself - is your journey absolutely essential?
  • check local and national weather forecasts to prepare for hazardous conditions
  • tell someone at your destination what time you expect to arrive, and allow plenty of time for your journey
  • take time before a journey for your vehicle to defrost
  • have your car checked and serviced regularly
  • beware of black ice, take extra care in shaded areas
  • use major roads for journeys rather than minor routes
  • in wet and icy conditions brake gently to avoid skidding
  • keep a safe distance from other vehicles - give yourself time to react
  • always keep within the speed limit - it is there for your safety
  • Remove all ice/snow  - if your view of the road is obscured by ice/ snow you're breaking the law.
  • Remove all snow from the bonnet/boot of the vehicle as this could fall off and into the path of other road users.

Essential kit for driving in the snow

The Highway Code advises drivers to carry an emergency kit in case you get stuck or your vehicle breaks down. Here’s a list of items to keep in the car:

– Blanket/sleeping bag

– First aid kit

– Torch (with batteries)

– Rope

– De-icer and scraper

– Mobile phone charger

– Spare headlamp bulbs

– Jump leads

– High-visibility vest

– Shovel

– Tyre pump

– Water

– Warm drink

– High-energy snacks and emergency food

– Wellington/snow boots

– Hat and gloves

Breakdowns advice

Every year there are more than 85,000 breakdowns, so knowing what to do in an emergency or breakdown is crucial for keeping yourself and others safe.

Highways England has created a handy guide full of useful advice if you do breakdown.

You can access the guide here.