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Winter driving advice

If you need to drive in wintry conditions and can't postpone your trip, take our advice for a safe and stress-free journey. Be prepared!

Always check your vehi­cle is in good run­ning order and has been regularly serviced before venturing out. Use the Highways Agency’s ‘Powdery’ checklist below as a reminder before you set off:

  • PETROL (or diesel) - have you got enough? Do you know where to fill up?
  • OIL - check lev­els once a month
  • WATER - check radi­a­tor and screen­ wash regularly
  • DAMAGE - check wipers, lights etc for signs of wear and tear or dam­age, and make sure wind­screens, win­dows and lights are clear of ice and snow.
  • ELECTRICS - check lights, indi­ca­tors and con­trols are work­ing properly
  • RUBBER TYRES - are they well inflated, legal, with good tread and free from damage?
  • YOU - are you fit to drive? Have you slept well?

Also ensure that if you are planning to travel with pets, they are safe and secure in the vehicle and will not be a distraction whilst driving.

Pack an emergency travel kit

On any winter journey, ensure you have the following with you:

  • Ice scraper and de-icer
  • Warm clothes and blan­kets — for you and all passengers
  • Torch and spare bat­ter­ies - or a wind-up torch
  • Boots
  • First aid kit
  • Jump leads
  • A shovel
  • Road atlas
  • Sun­glasses (the glare from snow can be dazzling)
  • Food and a ther­mos with a hot drink
  • Any med­ica­tion you, or other peo­ple trav­el­ling with you, need to take regularly.

Check for delays

Always check your route for delays and adverse weather conditions BEFORE you set off. See the Highways Agency's TrafficEngland site for the latest traffic and travel conditions on A-roads and motorways. For the latest travel and traffic within the York area see our YorkLIVE website or follow our Twitter feed @york_travel. Local gritting information is available on twitter from @yorkgritter and @northyorkscc.

On your journey

Be aware that road and weather conditions can change rapidly, so always drive with care. When you're on the road, pay attention to the changing road, traffic and weather conditions. Be ready to slow down and take more care if you need to, particularly on bends and exposed roads. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security - even if you drive every day on the same stretch of road.

On long journeys, consider taking a break at regular intervals - and that's an ideal time to check the traffic conditions on the road ahead. While you are safely parked, check the latest information via your mobile phone, iPhone or laptop. Never stop on the hard shoulder to do this and never use your mobile phone while driving.

Driving through ice and snow

  • Clear any snow off the roof of the vehicle before you drive away.
  • Watch out for icy conditions - look for clues such as ice on the pavement or on your windscreen before you start your journey and take extra care.
  • Try not to brake suddenly – it may lock up your wheels and you could skid further.
  • Leave extra space between you and other vehicles. Take even more care looking out for others that may not be able to stop and be extra cautious at road junctions where road markings may not be visible
  • Look out for winter service vehicles spreading salt or using snow ploughs. They have flashing amber beacons and travel at slower speeds – around 40mph. Stay well back because salt or spray can be thrown across the road. Do not overtake unless it is safe to do so – there may be un-cleared snow on the road ahead.

Driving in rain and floods

  • When the road is wet it can take twice as long to stop. Slow down and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
  • If your vehicle loses grip, or “aquaplanes”, on surface water take your foot off the accelerator to slow down. Do not brake or steer suddenly because you have less control of the steering and brakes.
  • Try to avoid driving through surface water as you might flood your engine.
  • If you have to drive through floods, drive slowly, use a low gear and try to keep the engine revving at a high rate. Move forward continuously to avoid stalling the engine. When driving an automatic vehicle, engage and hold in a low gear.
  • Test your brakes after driving through water; they may be ineffective.

Driving in fog

  • Use dipped headlights so that other drivers can see you.
  • If it is foggy (less than 100m visibility) then switch on your fog lights. Do not forget to turn them off when conditions improve.
  • Fog is often patchy so try not to speed up as visibility improves. You could suddenly find yourself back in thick fog further up the road.

Driving in high wind

  • Take extra care on the roads and plan your journey by checking the latest weather conditions.
  • Though high-sided vehicles are particularly affected by windy weather, strong winds can also blow other vehicles off course. This can happen on open stretches of road exposed to strong crosswinds, or when passing bridges, high-sided vehicles or gaps in trees.

Whatever the severe weather always adjust your driving according to the conditions.

Make sure you can see clearly and that you can be seen. Use at least dipped headlights in poor visibility – don’t just rely on daytime running lights if you have them.