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How to drive in icy conditions

Car driving on ice

Every year the winter roads cause needless accidents and drama in the UK. With a bit of planning much of the annual stress can be avoided.

Be prepared!

If you must drive on icy roads it is vital that you prepare your vehicle and yourself. Make sure you check your vehicle over for any faults and that all your oils and lubes are correctly filled. A well-prepared car is much more likely to handle the conditions and less likely to break down. Make sure the screen wash has the correct anti-freeze mix for the temperature and that it works! Pipes often freeze, especially the spray jets if the mix is wrong.

If you know that snow is forecast or the temperatures will plummet, make sure you carry safety stores. If you do get stuck it may be some time before help arrives. Jeans and T-shirt will not cut it in truly cold conditions. Carry warm clothing in an emergency bag, along with a blanket. Think about taking water and a few bits of food that can be left in the boot for emergency use.


Tyres are probably the most important part of the car when it comes to staying on the road. If the tyres are starting to get worn down your chances of losing traction and skidding are greatly increased. In truly wintery countries like Norway the minimum tread depth is 3mm over the whole tyre, in the UK it’s just 1.6mm over three-quarters of the tyre.

There are four main causes of a skid, and all are due to excess.

B is for Braking. Leave room to brake safely – excessive braking will mean loss of control.

A is for Acceleration. Speed up as gradually as the conditions allow, and avoid wheel spinning.

S is for Speed. Too much speed will leave less time to react to changes or obstacles.

S is for Steering. Aggressive steering will greatly increase the chance of losing grip to the road.

It’s all about the BASS!
And remember: Ice and Snow, drive nice and slow.


The expert

Name: Christopher Stevenson
Job: Specialist driver training
Unit: Defence School of Transport
Rank: Sergeant
Biog: Joined age 17 and has since served on two tours in Afghanistan and played for RLC at both Football and Golf

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