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Tips for Driving in Snow This Winter

Date Published 05.12.2018
Topic Car Insurance

Tips for Driving in Snow This Winter

As we once again face the cold days and dark nights of winter, ice and snow are an everpresent threat to road users. Living in a temperate climate, like Ireland, we are not guaranteed a blanket of white each winter so many of us don’t have much experience driving in snow.

If we do get snow on the ground, it is important to watch the weather and heed RTE’s Theresa Manion’s advice not to take unnecessary journeys. But if you must drive, there are a number of precautions you should take:

1. Plan

Carefully plan any trips you need to take and allow at least three times the usual travel time. Also allow time in the build up to leaving to dress appropriately, prepare your vehicle and gather all the additional equipment you may need for the inclement weather.

2. Dress comfortably 

Dress in layers that you can remove when you get to the car so you are warm but can move comfortably as you drive. Wear flat, flexible footwear like runners. Remember to change if you are wearing hiking or snow boots outside the car, the ankle supports will limit your range when using the pedals.

3. Check your tyres

To drive effectively in inclement weather, your car needs to have the best grip possible. Check the thread depth on each of your four tyres. If you don’t have a gauge for doing this, use a one Euro coin placed between the grooves of the tyre. If you can see the gold rim, your tyre needs to be replaced and you should not attempt to drive in snow or ice.

4. Have a fully charged phone 

It is illegal to use your phone while driving but in case of emergency, ensure your phone is fully charged. Having a phone may be a lifesaver if you become stranded, get into trouble or come across someone else who needs help.

5. Have the essentials

This is a good tip, regardless of the weather, but having essentials like:

  • Breakdown kit including jump leads and tow rope
  • Hi-Viz vest
  • Non-perishable food
  • Water
  • Blanket

Is essential if you are venturing out to drive in snow.

6. Clear your car 

Before attempting to take your car on the road, clear snow and ice off it completely. Don’t use boiling water to clear windows, it may crack them and windows cleared with boiling water can refreeze quickly. Use a commercial deicer or scraper instead.

7. Keep fuel tank full 

The day you are driving in snow is not the day you want your fuel light illuminating. If snow is forecast, fill your tank so you don’t have to worry if you need to use your car.

How to drive in snow this winter
Carefully plan any trips you need to take and allow at least three times the usual travel time.

8. Ensure you have windscreen fluid 

Windscreen fluid with de-icer is critical for the correct functioning of your windscreen wipers during cold weather. Ideally choose a de-icer that functions down to -35. It will also help clear any icy residue from your windscreen after you have cleared it.

9. Turn on your lights 

In many Nordic countries, it is mandatory to have your headlights on, even during daylight hours. Although not a legal requirement in Ireland, it is a good habit to get into as it makes you more visible on the road. It is important you turn on your lights while driving in snow, as the glare that comes hand in hand with this weather can make seeing oncoming vehicles more challenging. Using your dipped headlights should make you more visible.

10. Slow down 

It goes without saying that you should drastically reduce your speed when driving in snow. Although there are no hard and fast rules on speed (this will be based on road conditions at the time), the suggestion is the maximum you should drive is half the speed you would in normal conditions, that’s 40km per hour on an 80km per hour road.

11. Leave room

Braking distances in snow and ice are even greater than those needed in rain. Allow 8-10 seconds between you and the car in front when driving in snow.

12. Keep your eyes on the road in the distance

One of the key components of advanced driving is being able to drive defensively. This is particularly important in snow and ice. Defensive driving is having the ability to anticipate what other drivers are going to do and act based on this. Part of this is to keep your eyes up from the foreground to the road further ahead. In snowy conditions, this may help you see incidents early and give you some extra time to react.

13. Prepare for black ice 

One of the most dangerous components of winter weather is black ice. Difficult to see, it can be an unwanted surprise when driving in sheltered areas or as snow begins to thaw. If you feel yourself hitting ice, the rule of thumb is to do as little as possible if the car is going to glide over it. If your car begins to glide off course, try to remain calm and counter the skid by steering gently in the opposite way. It is worth noting, a little steering goes a long way in icy weather.

14. Avoid distracted driving 

Don’t let others in the car, the radio or a ringing phone distract you anytime you are driving but particularly when you are driving in ice and snow. Keep your eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel always, everything else can wait. If it is a genuine emergency pull over and stop in a safe place to address a problem.

15. Don’t, if you don’t feel confident 

Finally, if you don’t feel confident driving in snow. You are best off avoiding it. In many snow incidences in Ireland there are weather warnings in place encouraging people to limit or avoid all travel, take heed when hearing these.


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