Winter road safety - tips to keep you safe

Fire vehicle in the snow

Of all the seasons, winter requires the most care and preparation if you're to stay safe.  Please be prepared in case the bad weather strikes in your area of Cheshire.

In snow or icy conditions, it will take longer to stop - always drive at a speed appropriate for the conditions.

In winter it's even more important to check your vehicle is well maintained and serviced.

Weather warnings from the Met Office (opens in new window)

Car checks - get your car ready for the bad weather

Here are a few checks that you can do, to make sure your car is ready for bad weather:

  • Keep the lights, windows and mirrors clean and free from ice and snow

  • Make sure wipers and lights are in good working order

  • Add anti-freeze to the radiator and winter additive to the windscreen washer bottles

  • Check that tyres have plenty of tread depth and are maintained at the correct pressure

  • Pack a snow/ice scraper, de-icer, snow shovel, hat, gloves, boots, a torch, bottle of water and a first aid kit. For longer journeys, you should take blankets, a snack and a flask of warm drink.

  • Wash the car frequently to get rid of the salt and dirt that builds up over the winter.

  • Always keep a full tank of fuel - you never know when you might get delayed.

  • Don't use water to defrost the windows.

Be prepared for bad weather

  • Check the local and national weather forecasts: 

  • Listen to local and national radio for travel information

  • Tell someone at your destination what time you expect to arrive

  • Make sure you are equipped with warm clothes, food, boots and a torch - in snowy conditions, take a spade

  • Clear your windows and mirrors before you set out and carry a screen scraper and de-icer

  • Please take extra care and refer to the Highways Agency (opens in new window) for advice on traffic disruption on the roads in Cheshire.

Driving tips

You can keep yourself and others safe, by:

  • Slowing down

  • Keeping a greater distance between yourself and the vehicle in front, (increase the 2 second rule to 4 seconds or even more)

  • Setting aside extra time to complete your journey

  • Keep your mobile fully charged.

  • On colder days be particularly careful on tree lined roads - the trees prevent the sun's warmth from reaching the road, which may still be icy when all around has thawed.

Tips for staying safe when driving in the snow

  • Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin

  • Drive slowly, allowing extra room to slow down and stop

  • Manoeuvre gently, avoiding harsh braking and acceleration

  • To brake on ice or snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use the brake pedal gently

  • If you start to skid, ease off the accelerator but do not brake suddenly

  • From the DVSA "Different vehicles will react differently when there’s a risk of skidding, depending on whether they’re front- or rear-wheel drive, and on the systems fitted to the car, such as anti-lock brakes (ABS) or electronic stability control/programme (ESC or ESP). Check the vehicle handbook to find out how these will affect the risk of skidding."

The Highway Code has further information on driving in icy or otherwise poor weather;

Rule 230
When driving in icy or snowy weather
  • drive with care, even if the roads have been treated
  • keep well back from the road user in front as stopping distances can be ten times greater than on dry roads
  • take care when overtaking vehicles spreading salt or other de-icer, particularly if you are riding a motorcycle or cycle
  • watch out for snowploughs which may throw out snow on either side. Do not overtake them unless the lane you intend to use has been cleared
  • be prepared for the road conditions to change over relatively short distances
  • listen to travel bulletins and take note of variable message signs that may provide information about weather, road and traffic conditions ahead.

Rule 231
Drive extremely carefully when the roads are icy. Avoid sudden actions as these could cause loss of control. You should
  • drive at a slow speed in as high a gear as possible; accelerate and brake very gently
  • drive particularly slowly on bends where loss of control is more likely. Brake progressively on the straight before you reach a bend. Having slowed down, steer smoothly round the bend, avoiding sudden actions
  • check your grip on the road surface when there is snow or ice by choosing a safe place to brake gently. If the steering feels unresponsive this may indicate ice and your vehicle losing its grip on the road. When travelling on ice, tyres make virtually no noise.

Salting and snow ploughing

Take care when travelling behind winter service vehicles. Drivers of vehicles such as salt spreaders and snowploughs take all reasonable precautions to protect the safety of other road users. Salting vehicles

Salting vehicles travel at speeds of up to 40 mph spreading salt across all lanes of the carriageway. Drivers are advised to maintain a safe distance behind them. Do not attempt to overtake.

Snow ploughing can throw up irregular amounts of snow that may be a hazard to vehicles. Drivers are advised to maintain a safe distance behind vehicles and not to attempt to overtake. 

If you get into trouble

Do not use a mobile phone while driving. Stop somewhere safe or ask a passenger to make the call. On a motorway it is best to use a roadside emergency telephone because the breakdown/emergency services will be able to locate you easily.

If you have to use a mobile phone, make sure you know your location from the numbers on the marker posts on the side of the hard shoulder.

Abandoned vehicles can hold up rescue vehicles and snowploughs. To ensure that the road is cleared as quickly as possible, stay with your vehicle until help arrives.

If you have to leave your vehicle to get help, make sure other drivers can see you.

Useful website links

Weather update from the Met Office (opens in new window) 

Travel update from Highways England (opens in new window) 

Last updated: Monday 12 September 2022

Related images

Fire vehicle in the snow