Tips For Safe Driving In Cold Weather This Christmas

Driving for Christmas? Tips for a safe drive in cold weather

Christmas is a time when many of us are making long journeys to visit family and friends for a festive get together. However, in amongst the glitz and dazzle of brightly coloured lights and cheerful reunions, it is important to continue to be aware of safety on the road. Safety should be a driver’s number one priority all year round, but this can be a particularly treacherous time of year. There can be additional hazards from the cold winter weather, as well as many drivers rushing around and maybe not paying as much attention as usual. Follow our handy tips to ensure that you keep your family safe on the road during the festive season and beyond.

Get your vehicle checked for the winter road

Maintaining your vehicle properly is essential during the winter months, or else your car might not start in the cold. The freezing dark conditions make driving more difficult and take a toll on your car. Make sure that you check your battery and lights, keep your windows and mirrors clean to aid visibility, and ensure that your tyres are the right pressure and have enough tread to combat aquaplaning. The legal requirement is 1.6mm, but many motoring organisations suggest changing your tyres when they get down to 2mm to be on the safe side. Some people choose to put winter tyres on their cars. If you decide to do this, it is important that you change all four tyres to maintain the car’s stability. Check and top up your screen wash and anti-freeze, and think about a demisting pad. Screen wash allows you to keep your windows clean and maintain visibility. Anti-freeze ensures that the water in your radiator won’t freeze up in low temperatures.

 car check winter

Be prepared

Ice and snow can cause chaos on the roads. Make sure you’re prepared for any unexpected delays by keeping an emergency pack in your car boot. This could include things like drinks, food such as snack bars, an ice scraper, warm clothing such as hats, gloves and coats, a shovel, blankets, a portable mobile phone charger, a torch, and a First Aid Kit.

Make sure that you have plenty of fuel before setting off on a long journey. Try to always keep your tank at least one quarter full. If you are delayed for any reason, due to road closures, heavy traffic, or bad weather, you don’t want to have the extra worry about whether you will be able to make it to the next petrol station. This is especially important as you may find that some petrol stations close early during the festive season. If you find yourself in a situation where you are running low on fuel, you can try to conserver fuel by driving smoothly and avoiding unnecessary acceleration. Reduce drag by keeping your windows closes and only use the air conditioning if it is really necessary.

 winter weather gear

Plan your route

Check the weather forecast before you set off on your journey. If the weather looks bad, it’s best to stay off the roads if possible. However, we know that sometimes you just have to travel. If this is the case, try and plan your route first to make your journey as stress free as possible. Consider what time of day would be best for travelling and try to avoid peak times where traffic may be heavy. Factor in more time to get to your destination if the weather is poor.

 winter road

Clear your car of snow and ice

When it has been snowing, the landscape can look like a winter wonderland with everything covered in a fresh coat of white. However, it is important to ensure that you fully clear your car of snow before you set off. Remember to clear snow off your car roof too. Although this doesn’t cause an issue while it’s on the roof, it can easily slip forwards on to your windscreen when you set off and obscure your vision. Even worse, it could slip off and hit another vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian.

It is also essential that you clear your car of ice and condensation before beginning your drive. Make sure that you clear windows, windscreens, mirrors, and lights. Don’t be tempted to use hot water to de-ice your car quickly. This could cause the glass to crack. The best method is to use de-icer and an ice scraper. Ensure that you clear all the windows completely. Leaving even a small amount of ice could obstruct your vision and potentially cause an accident.

When you are driving, look out for black ice on the roads. This is particularly hazardous as you don’t know it is there until you start to skid. Drive carefully and slow down if weather conditions are bad.

 clean car winter snow

Be a considerate driver

While this time of year can feel somewhat rushed and stressful at times, you must always keep your cool whilst driving. Be considerate to other road users.

Remember to keep a safe distance from the car in front of you. Accidents are commonly caused when a car is travelling too close to the car in front and is not able to stop in time if this car has to suddenly brake without any warning. It is recommended that the distance from the car in front should be a two second gap. If you find that the car behind you is travelling too close, you should keep a three or four second gap between your car and the car in front of you. This means that if the car in front brakes suddenly, you can brake more gradually making it less likely that the car behind will crash into the back of your car. Bad weather can increase the stopping distance needed. In wet weather, the stopping distance is doubled, and on icy roads the stopping distance is ten times the usual.

Excessive speed is a major cause of road accidents. Even if you are in a hurry, it is always better to arrive safely if a little late. Always keep to the speed limit and take account of the weather conditions. If the weather is poor, it is better to slow down. Watch out for slow traffic or road signs that could notify you of a change to the speed limit.

Keep to the left at all times when overtaking and only do this when you are sure it is safe to do so. Check your rear view mirror and side mirror regularly.

 considerate driver

Stay sober

Drink driving is a big no-no. Driving and alcohol do not go together. If you are heading to a party and intend to have a drink, make sure you can park your car somewhere safe overnight and get a taxi or a lift back home. Another option is to nominate someone to stay sober and act as the designated driver. Don’t ever be tempted to get in a car with a drunk driver. It’s not worth the risk.

If you’re the sober driver, stay aware of high-spirited party goers as you drive everyone home. Revellers who have had an alcoholic drink or two may be less aware of traffic and could take risks such as stepping out into the road unexpectedly. Keep your eyes open to avoid any unwelcome surprises.

Beware of the ‘morning after’. Statistics suggest that ‘morning after’ offences account for over one fifth of all drink driving offences. If you know you have to drive the next day, be aware of how much alcohol you are drinking and keep this to a minimum. Although you may feel fine in the morning, it can still take time for the alcohol to completely leave your system.


Avoid fatigue

The festive season can mean a lot of late nights and busy days. If you are heading off on a long journey, make sure that you get a good night’s rest beforehand. Try to avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep, such as late at night or early in the morning. These are high risk times for accidents. Almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep related. If you are driving and notice that you are feeling tired, consider sharing the driving with another driver if this is possible. If not, it is advised to quickly find a safe space to pull over and have a short powernap or stop for a coffee before continuing on your journey.

 tired driver

Switch your phone off

Using a mobile phone while driving is as dangerous as driving over the legal blood alcohol limit. You must never text and drive or talk on a mobile phone while driving. The best solution is to switch your phone off before you begin your journey so that there is no risk of you being distracted by incoming messages or tempted to take a quick call. However, if this is not possible, consider whether you could ask a passenger to handle your phone calls and messages during the journey. If you’re travelling alone, always find a safe place to pull over and stop the car before using your phone.

switch phone off driving