Tips for driving in snow

Posted on: 21 December 2009 by Mark O'haire

With Arctic weather conditions gripping the UK, almost everybody will be experiencing snowfall on a journey at some point.

Take a moment to refresh your memory as to the steps you need to take when driving in the snow, and try and make every journey a safe one.

Driving in snow will greatly change how you and your car behave should a serious situation arise. It is important to be fully aware of your limits; this includes both your own and your car - not forgetting those of other road users! You may have a high performance car, you may have the latest stability control system, but in snow the cornering ability of your car, along with any technology, will become almost irrelevant due to the sheer lack of grip – even cars equipped with ABS are unlikely stop a straight-line skid due to the lack of grip available! With this in mind it’s worth staying focused on your driving environment. Avoid making any sharp movements with the steering wheel. It’s also worth avoiding harsh acceleration, sudden braking and traveling at high speeds.

General driving

Try to keep in as high a gear as possible to avoid wheel spin. Although you should always concentrate whilst driving, ensure you double your concentration in the snow – bear in mind you may have covered many thousands of miles in everyday road conditions but most people will drive fewer miles in snow than they do when learning to drive – making the majority of the public very inexperienced snow drivers!

Moving away from standstill - a good way of reducing wheel spin in the snow when moving off is to apply the throttle gently; perhaps you should also consider moving off in 2nd gear if it’s very slippery.

Negotiating corners

Before taking a corner or bend it is worth slowing down long before you usually would, but remember to do this only in a straight line to avoid loss of control. When taking a bend you should ensure that your speed is sufficiently low so as not to lose traction and that you avoid any sharp steering movements.


The key to success here is to use your power of observation, as any sudden unplanned braking, no matter how advanced your car is, will usually result in a skid if you are on pure snow. Should you need to brake harder than planned (i.e. you lock the wheels) remember to use a system called cadence braking whereby you release the foot brake when the wheels lock up and quickly reapply – with the aim of trying to brake just above the locking point of the wheels and reducing speed as fast and as controlled as possible This practice is usually not needed with cars equipped with ABS, however, as mentioned before, the sheer lack of grip may mean you will need to do this – ABS or not!

Another good way of reducing speed in snow is to carefully engage a lower gear and use the compression of the engine to slow you down.

REMEMBER: At least triple the usual distance between your car and the one ahead.

Points to remember:

  • Is your journey essential?
  • Do you have a blanket in the car?
  • Does anyone know where you are going and what time you should be back?
  • Do you have a charged mobile phone with you?
  • Do you have a hot drink in a flask?
  • Have you taken note of the local weather forecast?
  • Have you planned to make sure your destination is accessible?
  • Will you need a spade to dig yourself out of any drifts?

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