Winter is Coming: tips for safe driving

Winter is coming. The clocks have gone back, the nights are dark. The weather can be mixed, to say the least. Roads can be slippy, visibility can be poor. Whether you drive a car, a van, or a truck, winter driving is more hazardous than at other times of the year. It’s important drivers adapt their driving to the conditions.

Posted 3 Nov 2021

Of course, winter varies depending on location. Our US customers will generally experience more snow and ice than those based in the UK and Ireland. In fact, over 70% of the USA’s roads are located in snowy regions, which receive more than five inches (or 13 cm) average snowfall annually. (Federal Highway Administration, 2019)

What do the statistics tell us about winter driving?

We all instinctively feel the roads are more dangerous in winter – and the data shows that to be true. It’s a well-acknowledged fact that stopping distances are up to ten times longer in snow and ice, compared to on a dry road.

In the USA and elsewhere, there are actually more accidents in the summer, but it seems winter crashes are more likely to be severe.

Research shows there are about 156,000 crashes annually in the USA due to icy roads and more than 116,000 people are injured and more than 1,300 people are killed in crashes on snowy or icy roads each year.

In the UK, November is the top month for the greatest number of accidents, although followed by May, June, and July – presumably because more day trips and holiday journeys take place. October comes in fifth. In Ireland in 2019, September and December were particularly dangerous in terms of road deaths.

In 2017 in the UK there were over 7,000 road accidents reported where the cause was given as slippery road surface.

But how do motorists maximize safety in winter driving conditions?

Don’t skimp on maintenance

We have discussed previously the importance of daily vehicle checks for HGVs and commercial vehicles. Regular checks are crucial to safety and important for compliance, although our recent survey found they were often overlooked. Checking your vehicle isn’t just the responsibility of those who drive for a living, though. Every driver must prioritize vehicle maintenance to guard against issues.

Ensure brakes, fluids, and tyres are regularly checked and maintained. Wiper blades must be in good condition to aid visibility and cold temperatures can be harsh on your battery so ensure it is in good condition before the temperature really plummets. Check hoses, belts, and lights. Stock up on de-icer, windscreen wash, oil, and anti-freeze.

Be prepared!

Not just for Boy Scouts! An emergency kit in your vehicle is an excellent idea. Suggested inclusions are a blanket, ice scraper, small shovel, torch/flashlight, boots and warm clothes, jump leads, a hazard warning triangle, snacks and drinks. It’s always good practice to have a phone charger in your vehicle too.  Hopefully, you won’t ever need these items but better safe than sorry.

Practical winter driving tips

Road safety organizations across the world have a plethora of tips for safe winter driving.  Planning plenty of time for journeys so you’re not rushing is key, especially as you may need to spend time de-icing your vehicle and waiting for the windscreen to clear.

In terms of actually moving the vehicle, the following very helpful tips are given by the AA.

  • Wear comfortable, dry shoes for driving.
  • Pull away in second gear, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.
  • Uphill – leave plenty of room or wait until it’s clear so you don’t have to stop part way up. Keep a constant speed and try to avoid having to change gear on the hill.
  • Downhill – slow down before the hill, use a low gear and try to avoid braking. Leave as much room as you can to the car in front.
  • If you have to use your brakes, apply them gently.
  • If you drive an Automatic, check the handbook – some have a winter mode or recommend selecting ‘2’ in slippery conditions.
  • If you do get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels. Put a sack or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip.

Use your common sense

We’re passionate about improving safety and reducing risk for vehicles, drivers, and otherroad users across the world. Our safety system enables this – but we know good old fashioned common sense and practical tips are also important.

Stay safe this winter.