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Driving during the winter

Is your vehicle ready for winter? Are you planning on undertaking long journeys in the coming months?

Be prepared

Reduce the chances of breaking down?

Check your vehicle is in good running order before you set out and consider regular servicing to help minimise the risk.

Use the POWDERY checklist as a good reminder:

  • PETROL (or diesel). Have you got enough? Do you know where to fill up?
  • OIL - check levels once a month
  • WATER - check radiator and screenwash once a month
  • DAMAGE - check wipers, lights etc for signs of wear and tear or damage
  • ELECTRICS - check lights, indicators and controls are working properly
  • RUBBER TYRES - are they inflated, legal, with good tread and free from damage?
  • YOURSELF - are you fit to drive? Have you slept well? Are you taking any medication(s) that could make it unsafe for you to drive?

If you plan to travel with pets, ensure they are safe and secure, and will not be a distraction to people travelling in your vehicle - seek appropriate advice before you travel.

Emergency kit

Put the following items in your vehicle at the start of the winter season, you never know when you might need them!

  • Ice scraper and de-icer
  • Torch and spare batteries - or a wind-up torch
  • Warm clothes and blankets - for you and all passengers
  • Boots
  • First aid kit
  • Jump leads
  • A shovel
  • Road atlas
  • Sunglasses (the glare off snow can be dazzling)

Be informed

Check weather updates

Take weather conditions into account when planning your route by visiting the Met Office website or listening to local radio broadcasts.


Always allow extra time in severe weather. Listen to warnings or advice and consider whether or not your journey is essential. Are you able to change your travel plans? Can you work at home, for example?

If severe weather is forecast, try and plan your journey before the worst of the weather? Or wait until it has passed? Or allow time after the snowfall for our crews to start clearing and treating the roads?

Remember, in severe weather you will need to allow more time for your journey. 

Have you planned your journey?

In severe and wintry weather it's even more important to plan your journey.

Updates on the move

  • Automatic signs tell you how long it will take traffic to reach certain destinations at that time.
  • Overhead message signs - control centres will flash up important travel messages, including warning you of delays and advising of alternative routes.

Your route

The Highways Agency look after England's motorways and major A roads. Local authorities look after all the other roads. We work hard to keep networks clear during severe weather.

Stick to the main roads where you can and avoid exposed routes.

Not every road can be treated and for this reason you should drive with care and respect the road conditions and take even more care driving on minor roads.

When driving, 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.

Even if the time and location of snowfall is perfectly forecast, it will take time to clear the snow after it has fallen and treat the road with salt to reduce the risk of ice. It's not just the salt treatment that helps cut through snow and ice, it's the steady flow of traffic too.

Remember, snow ploughs can't get through if the road or motorway is full of stationary traffic. Give our vehicles and crew the space they need to do their job and help you on your journey!

Steep hills and exposed roads are likely to present more challenging driving conditions, so if  possible avoid these it might make your journey easier.

Taking a break

On long journeys, consider taking a break at regular intervals. Whilst you are parked, check the latest information for traffic conditions on the road ahead via your mobile phone, iPhone or laptop by using the free app. This will allow you to select live updates by road, region or motorway. 

Never stop on the hard shoulder to do this and never use your mobile phone whilst driving. 

There are information points, with screens displaying live traffic updates, at many motorway service areas.

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Article utilities:  Bookmark and Share Print Print this page Last updated: 13 Jun 2017 at 14:14