Winter Driving – Tips for driving in Icy Weather

How to prepare for driving on ice

Firstly, think about whether your journey is necessary. Before you leave home make sure you pack a charged mobile phone, water, a few snacks and a warm blanket. If snowfall looks likely, a set of snow socks – high-grip fabric covers fitted over the car’s driven wheels – is worth having, too.

Tyre grip is hugely reduced on icy roads, and braking distances are much longer. Even if you avoid an accident, your car may get stuck – potentially leading to a long walk home. Traffic congestion is likely to be worse, too.

If you’re driving to meet someone, let them know your route and when you expect to arrive. Make sure the car’s windows and mirrors are completely clear before you set off.

How to drive on icy roads

Anticipation and smoothness are key for driving on icy roads.

Look well ahead for potential hazards – including, of course, patches of ice – and keep your speed well down.

Accelerate, brake, steer and change gear as smoothly as possible to reduce the risk of a skid.

A higher gear may be more appropriate to aid grip on packed ice. This helps manage engine power delivery, making it easier to find traction. If it’s a manual, you might need to slip the clutch a little to prevent the car from stalling.

What is the braking distance on ice?

Braking distances can increase tenfold on ice compared with a dry road.

For this reason, you should leave up to 10 times the normal recommended gap between you and the car in front.

Remember that tyres grip less efficiently in cold conditions. So even if the temperature is above zero and there’s no ice on the road, you should take extra care.

Winter tyres offer more grip and can significantly increase performance in icy conditions.

What is black ice?

Black ice is a thin layer of ice on the road surface. Because it is smooth and transparent, it appears the same colour as the road below.
Black ice can be almost invisible to drivers, which makes it particularly dangerous.

How to identify and drive on black ice

Sometimes black ice appears as a glossy sheen on the road. You may see it glinting in the sunlight, or spot cars ahead swerving for no obvious reason.
It’s likely you won’t see black ice at all, so be particularly cautious on shaded stretches of road, bridges, flyovers and tunnels.
If you hit a patch of black ice, don’t panic. Keep the steering wheel straight and maintain your speed – don’t hit the brakes. Use the gears to slow down, but avoid any sudden movements that could destabilise the car.

How to correct a skid on ice

If you do encounter a skid, steer gently into it.

For example, if the rear of the car is sliding to the right, steer to the right.

As above, do not take your hands off the steering wheel or brake hard.