Driving Safely in Winter Conditions

December 19, 2023
Contact us
Request a call back

Driving, whether for work or other reasons, is one of the most dangerous activities that many people carry out. There are many hazards on the roads, and those risks can be higher when combined with bad weather, shorter daylight hours, and winter conditions.

All employers have a duty to assess the risks that their employees are exposed to while at work and to put in place reasonable measures to control those risks, including when driving or operating mobile plants for work.

It’s important to remember that when we drive, we don’t just risk our own safety; we also risk the lives and safety of our passengers, drivers and passengers of other vehicles, and vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders, and pedestrians. Below are some tips to help with driving in winter conditions.

Prepare Your Vehicle

  • Use a screen wash with anti-freeze properties and follow the dilution instructions for winter or icy conditions when filling the vehicle’s wash bottle. Keep the screen wash topped up.
  • Clean and de-ice your windscreen, side and rear windows, and lights thoroughly before setting out on your journey.
  • Carry a cloth, de-icer, and scraper in the vehicle so that you can repeat the cleaning process each time you stop.
  • Check that the windscreen wipers are in good condition.
  • Make sure the battery is fully charged.
  • Make sure you have sufficient fuel.
  • Check tyres regularly, including pressure, tread depth, and overall condition.
  • Tyre pressure affects steering, grip, and braking; make sure tyres are inflated to the correct pressure for the conditions.


Plan Your Journey

  • Plan your journey carefully so that you don’t have to rush.
  • Stick to major routes where possible and allow extra time for your journey to allow for breaks, hold-ups, and diversions, e.g., due to fallen trees, flooding, accidents, etc.
  • Plan alternative routes in case your preferred route is blocked.
  • When driving for long distances on a motorway plan regular breaks to be taken at service stations so that you can repeat the cleaning process.
  • In extreme weather conditions, consider whether it may be necessary to reschedule your appointment.
  • Try to avoid remote roads wherever possible.
  • Listen to local and national weather broadcasts and travel bulletins.


Prepare Yourself

  • Sunglasses can help protect your eyes against the dazzle of low winter sun, but they shouldn’t be worn in dull weather.
  • Where possible, avoid stopping on motorway hard shoulders. If necessary, leave the motorway at the next exit or pull into a service station.
  • Carry a pair of sensible shoes, warm clothing, a torch, a shovel, and any other necessary emergency equipment in case you break down.
  • In wet, icy, or snowy conditions, reduce your speed. Stopping distances will be greater. Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
  • Try to avoid braking suddenly; slow down by reducing gear. If you lose control, steer in the direction of the skid.
  • Make sure you have a fully charged mobile telephone with you on your journey.


Drive Safely

  • Reduce your speed and drive according to the road and weather conditions; maintain greater stopping distances (double in wet weather and ten times greater in icy weather).
  • Maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front, and increase this gap in bad weather.
  • Avoid harsh braking or acceleration. Carry out any manoeuvres slowly and carefully.
  • Use the demister to keep your windscreen clear.
  • Never feel pressured to complete a journey if weather conditions are too dangerous.
  • Be considerate, and don’t be a hazard to other road users.
  • Avoid dazzling motorists behind you by switching off rear fog lights when they are not needed (as a general guide, if you can see vehicles behind you in your mirrors, then they can see you, so switch off the fog lights).
  • In high winds, take extra care if driving high-sided vehicles with light loads.
  • Beware of floods in heavy rain. There can be a fine line between a puddle your vehicle can safely drive through and a flood that will leave you stranded. If you suspect it is too deep or you aren’t sure, then find another route or cancel your journey.

Remember, safe driving requires concentration; avoid distractions such as eating, drinking, smoking, adjusting equipment such as radios and sat-navs, using mobile phones, worrying about work schedules, and holding difficult conversations.

If you have any questions or would like support with managing issues at your workplace, please speak to your usual contact or get in touch using the form below.