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Be Wise

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When you're on the road, 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.

You can use the Highways Agency's information services to check for delays on the major roads. They work closely with the Met Office, so they’ve got the latest information on weather conditions too.

Driving in adverse weather

Watch out for ice!
Even after roads have been treated in winter, driving conditions may remain challenging, especially on stretches where the local road layout or landscape means there is a greater risk of ice forming

Watch out for locations where you may need to drive more carefully, either because of side winds or a greater risk of ice. Some common examples are:

  • Changes in road elevation or exposure.
  • Where the road passes under or over a bridge.
  • Things at the side of the road that shade the carriageway, such as trees and bridges.
  • When you leave a busy road, where the amount of traffic has helped keep the road clear and turn into a quieter side road or slip road.
  • Bends in the road where there is a greater risk of loss of control.
  • Reduce your speed when approaching a bend and don’t brake suddenly.

Driving in fog

  • Use dipped headlights so other drivers can see you.
  • If it's really foggy (less than 100m visibility) and you can't see much, then switch your fog lights and rear high intensity lights on.
  • Fog is often patchy so try not to speed up as visibility improves. You could suddenly find yourself back in thick fog.

Driving through ice and snow

  • Clear snow off all windows, number plates and lights – so you can see and be seen.
  • You should also clear any snow on the roof of the vehicle before you drive off. It can slip down over the windscreen and obscure your view. It’s not always obvious that the road is icy. Look for clues such as ice on the pavement or on your windscreen, before you start your journey.
  • If your tyres are making virtually no noise on the road it could be a sign that you’re driving on ice.
  • Don’t brake harshly – you risk locking up your wheels and you could skid further.
  • In severe cold or snowy conditions, look out for winter service vehicles spreading salt or using snow ploughs. They’ll have flashing amber beacons and will be travelling at slower speeds – around 40mph. Stay well back because salt or spray is thrown across the road. Don’t overtake unless it is safe to do so – there may be uncleared snow or previously untreated surfaces on the road ahead.

Starting off in snow

Even when the main roads are clear, the side roads can often be snow- covered because they are less likely to have been treated and there is less traffic.

Avoid revving your engine and spinning your wheels on the slippery surface. Slow and steady works best. Try starting off gently in second gear. Then move into third and avoid sudden steering and braking. Anticipating the road ahead of you becomes even more important, so that you keep moving steadily where you can rather than having to stop and then start off again – especially on hills.

Driving in the rain

  • When the road's wet, it can take twice as long to stop. So it makes sense to slow down and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
  • If your vehicle loses its grip, or "aquaplanes" on surface water take your foot off the accelerator to slow down.

Driving in windy weather

  • Take extra care on the roads and plan your journeys by checking the latest weather conditions.
  • High-sided vehicles are particularly affected by windy weather but strong gusts can also blow a vehicle, cyclist, motorcyclist, or horse rider off course. This can happen on open stretches of road exposed to strong crosswinds, or when passing bridges, high-sided vehicles or gaps in trees.

Further information

For further information and advice on driving in adverse weather conditions visit the DirectGov website

If you break down on the motorway

  • Pull onto the hard shoulder, park as far over to the left as you can, away from traffic, and turn on your hazard warning lights.
  • Get yourself and any passengers out of the vehicle immediately, using the doors on the left hand side, furthest from the traffic. While you wait for help, keep well away from the carriageway and hard shoulder - stand over the barrier if it's safe to do so - and do not try even the simplest of repairs.
  • Try to use the emergency roadside telephones rather than a mobile phone. This will help traffic officers and emergency services know exactly where you are. If you do use a mobile phone dial 0300 123 5000

For further information, please visit www.highways.gov.uk/winter