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Driving in Snow: Top Tips

Shock, horror: it's the middle of December and the United Kingdom has seen a couple of inches of snowfall. It sounds painfully uninteresting, but those who aren't from the country would be surprised how much a flurry of snow brings our country to a halt.

It's not like snow never happens. Every winter you can always vouch there will be at least one 'big freeze' event, and yet every winter when the white stuff falls, the UK just runs around in circles, screaming. To the Nordic countries, or North America, we must look absolutely daft.

This snow pandemonium extends to cars and the roads, too. Other countries cope just fine, but here it just seems that even the busiest trunk roads grind to a halt. News bulletins constantly broadcast that cars have been 'abandoned', and while there will be some cases where you will become stuck beyond your own control, I reckon there will be other cases where it could've been avoided if some suitable techniques are utilised. Here's a few:

Put winter boots on

No, not your feet, but your car. In some cold countries, winter tyres are more or less mandatory, but it's quite a casual thing in the UK. I personally know barely anyone who fits different tyres for the frosty season, but it's definitely worth the effort. Winter tyres are designed to heat up much quicker in cold conditions below 10 degrees celsius, which allows for optimum grip and braking. Additionally, winter tyres tend to have more rugged groove patterns in them, which gives your car far better traction on snow and ice. It won't transform your car into a go-anywhere 4x4, but winter tyres offer a substantial extra layer of safety in the lottery conditions that is snow.

Now obviously if the snow falls and you still have standard tyres on, you've probably left it a bit too late. Let us move on then, to more tips that you can use regardless of how ill-prepared you may be.

Slow and steady wins the race

It's another one that sounds fairly obvious, but a surprising amount of people on the road barely adjust their speed at all in snow and ice conditions. Just because you can see the black tarmac does not mean the road is clear of all hazards, and has returned to its nominal grip levels. Black ice is one of the biggest killers in these conditions; you may be on a road that looks and feels safe enough to do 50mph on, but it only takes a small thin puddle to freeze over to send you into an uncontrollable spin - and at that speed, you're just a passenger. And these ice patches are invisible, as the clear water freezes over the black asphalt, hence the black ice name.

Going slow may feel like a chore if the road looks like it's been mainly cleared, but it will save your pride (and your wallet) in the long run.

No sudden movements

Be sure to treat the gas pedal, brakes, and steering wheel like they're made of egg shell. Sometimes it's easy to forget how little traction is on the road in sub-zero conditions, but you'll sure as hell know about it when you pull out of a T-junction, turning left, but the car keeps going straight. Give yourself loads of breathing space for braking, especially if the road is on a decline, and do nothing more than tickle the gas with your big toe. Doing those things may not give you the quickest journey, but ultimately you will at least be in control of your 1.5 tonne lump of metal.

As higher gear as possible

Provided you don't bog down the engine and can maintain your desired speed, try and keep the car in the highest gear you possibly can when travelling along. This is to help aid you with the sudden movements tip; a car which is in a high gear will not make much power, regardless if you put your foot down or not. The benefit of this is that it allows you to make linear progress without lighting your wheels up.

For example, I was on a back country lane in the snow a few days ago. It was an incline, and it was very icy. I stuck the car in third gear and put my foot down, and the car just about maintained 20mph up the incline at minimal revs. The fact I couldn't go any faster helped me massively, as it prevented the car from lighting up the front wheels, and ultimately sending itself out of control. I could've maybe done the icy climb in 1st or 2nd gear, but that would've been far more difficult trying to balance the throttle and dulling down the wheel spin.

So, there you have it. I could've mentioned a few more tips, such as carrying the appropriate emergency equipment in your boot, or wrapping chains round your tyres, but I wanted to mainly focus on what you could do if you found yourself in the snow unprepared. When driving, snow has to be respected. If you follow those relatively simple tips, though, you are most likely to be absolutely fine... provided one nutcase doesn't end up crashing into you! Stay safe.
Driving in Snow: Top Tips Driving in Snow: Top Tips Reviewed by Jack Cooper on December 13, 2017 Rating: 5

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