Friday, November 22, 2019

Driving in Varying Weather Conditions

As winter is now upon us, we look at practical advice on driving in difficult conditions.

There are many risks associated with driving. Anyone who drives will have had some sort of negative experience. If you drive for work, it is your responsibility to ensure that you take extra consideration when driving in varying weather conditions.

  • Reduced visibility and slippery road surfaces make winter driving particularly hazardous.
  • Good road observation is essential so that you can interpret conditions accurately and adjust your speed accordingly. If you drive too fast on a slippery or wet road surface your tyre grip will be substantially reduced and the risk of skidding increased
  • Check tyres regularly (at least every 2 weeks) and keep them properly inflated.
  • Make sure you have the legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. Check tyres after even short journeys on cold days.
  • Check that your lights are clean and working.
  • Always keep the windscreen and windows clean and the washer bottle filled with screen wash.
  • Before making any journey, listen to the news and weather broadcasts. If conditions are very bad, avoid making the journey unless it is necessary.
  • Make sure you know and understand the hazards and risks of all types of weather conditions, especially ice, snow and fog - before you venture out.
  • Always reduce your speed on slippery surfaces. Avoid harsh braking and acceleration.
  • Always increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front in poor conditions. Your tyre grip will not be as good and it will take longer to brake.
  • Allow up to TEN TIMES the normal distance for braking, especially on motorways.


Driving in winter can present additional hazards, whether you are facing a mildly inconvenient cold snap that compromises visibility or driving through treacherous ice and heavy snow.

It is worth remembering that grit becomes ineffective at temperatures below -5.

Some interesting facts

  • Grit that is used on our roads is actually rock salt and it is used because it lowers the freezing temperature of water.
  • Rock salt is used to prevent ice from forming in the first place, but it can also be used to melt snow and ice, which is already on the ground.
  • Adding salt to water stops it freezing until around -5ºC to -8ºC, making ice much less likely to form.
  • If the temperatures fall to below -5, the rock salt will become unstable.
  • If the temperature falls below -8 then the rock salt will stop working completely in the concentrations used on the roads.
  • The weather conditions can also play a big part in determining how much of the grit spread actually stays on the road.
  • The movement of other traffic in wet slushy conditions can result in the grit being sprayed to the side of the road allowing the middle surface of the road to freeze.


To maximise your safety on treacherous roads ROSPA has produced a useful guide.  This offers some good tips on driving safely in adverse conditions

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