Truths and tips about driving in the snow

Car driving in winter

Driving in winter driving conditions requires driving a little slower and a lot more tactfully. Being respectful of other road users is key to driving safely on snow or icy covered roads.

Winter driving requires a lot of practice and experience, you should always remember that if conditions are too dangerous, don’t drive! Before you start driving, first consider if it’s an essential journey.

There is no specific equipment required when driving in the snow though it may help you feel safer. Driving with winter tyres can provide extra grip.  It is a good idea to ensure your phone is fully charged (for emergencies), and you have a warm blanket and a torch in case you get stuck.

Keep your distance from other cars in case they lose control

As you know, driving at high speed (particularly on the motorway) is more hazardous on snowy or icy conditions due to reduced grip of tyres which increases stopping distance. An increase in braking distance causes drivers on slippery surfaces to brake harder and later thus reducing their control over the car. This is why driving on snowy and icy roads is more likely to result in an accident.

If possible, increase the distance between you and the vehicle driving in front of you beyond what you would already allow for. Slippery roads mean longer stopping distances, so you’ll need more time to react. If your car skids, ease off the accelerator and steer into the direction of the slide, driving slightly slower to gain traction.

Remember that safe driving is a shared responsibility

You could help avoid accidents if you look out for other drivers on the road. Remember that driving conditions can varyAnother car seen in mirror, winter greatly across the road, even in lanes with little traffic. Plan ahead to make sure you have plenty of space if anything unexpected happens.

Remember that councils are likely to de-ice major roads first, so smaller roads or residential areas may not be treated as quickly.

Drive slowly, and carefully

Just like driving in heavy rain, it is even more important to remember that driving fast isn’t worth the risk of an accident.

Some driving instructors may test their driving students on driving in bad weather conditions; so if you are someone who struggles with driving in the snow or other winter driving conditions, driving lessons (or driving test refreshers for past driving students and candidates) can help you feel more comfortable and well prepared in the future.

Icy weather is particularly dangerous because driving on ice tends to be more erratic. This means that if you lose control of your driving, you’re more likely to be in a dangerous position.

When driving on ice:

Use your headlights

Even during the daytime, if the sun is low, driving without your headlights on can be very dangerous. Low visibility means other drivers can’t see you, and driving into the path of an oncoming car is likely to end in tragedy.

Car driving in distance on dark winter day

The highway code states:

“You must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet). You may also use front or rear fog lights but you must switch them off when visibility improves (see rule 236).”

Take corners slowly and leave plenty of braking space between you and the car in front. In snow, you need to be prepared for an extra chance of skidding or sliding.

Keep an emergency kit in your car

An emergency kit in your car when driving in the snow can be very helpful if your car breaks down; make sure you have a blanket, ice scraper, torch, and anything else you might need if you get stuck such as jump leads. Always consider keeping a first aid kit in your car regardless of the conditions.

It is important to understand driving in bad weather conditions may require you to slow down and drive slow; driving instructors will inform you of how to drive when it is slippery.

Prepare for the journey

Ensure that you have enough fuel. Several factors contribute to higher fuel consumption during winter months, having more fuel ensures you can get you to your destination safely. If driving far, consider not driving directly there; stop at the first convenient place and continue driving so that you do not have to drive with low fuel.

Be sure the vehicle is properly prepared for driving in winter weather conditions (check tyre pressure/condition/grip, washer fluid levels)

Consider changing or modifying your tyres if you frequently get snow and ice in your area, conditions are typically less severe in the UK than in other countries but there are many options when it comes to easier winter driving. If possible, try not to drive on country roads.

Winter tyres are a good way to increase traction and avoid wheel spin, they’re made from a softer rubber compound that more effectively grips the road. Make sure your tyres have adequate tread depth and pressure to ensure grip. Remember, a good driving instructor can help you get more familiar or ready for winter driving conditions.

Check local weather forecasts and traffic news to track the weather conditions of the area you will drive through. Keeping up with the latest news will alert you to any changes in driving conditions and driving risks.

Driving in the snow can be tricky

Driving instructors are aware of this and may test their driving students on it, they should educate driving students about safe driving in all kinds of weather such as heavy snow and fog.


Are manual or automatic cars better for snow?

Manuals allow more freedom over gear control, which could be favourable. Common advice is to start in second gear when pulling away and to generally use a higher gear when driving in snow, which is not possible with an automatic car.

Fortunately, some automatics will allow for 1st and 2nd gear selection, and modern cars may come with a specific mode for winter driving.

Can I take my driving lessons during bad weather?

Depending on the severity of the conditions, it may be deemed too dangerous for either tests or driving lessons to go ahead. If a driving lesson is cancelled, it’s probably best to wait until the driving instructor is able to reschedule.

Does the theory test include driving in snow and ice?

Yes, driving in bad weather is included. The highway code has sections on wet, cold, and hot weather conditions (226-237), so it is important to be aware of driving in all kinds of weather.

How are driving lessons taught in winter conditions?

Driving instructors teach driving lessons in all kinds of driving conditions, so long as it is not a risk to safety. They are also fully qualified and insured so will not put themselves or their students at risk.

If you’re looking for a way to increase your chances of passing your next driving test, book an appointment with Star Drivers here: