Top 10 winter motoring tips to keep you safe

Summer and driving on holidays and day trips seems like a long time ago now. Winter weather brings different hazards, so motorists have to adapt their driving to suit the conditions. This means that you have to plan ahead and ensure that you and your car are ready for all eventualities. Here are my top 10 winter safety driving tips to keep you safe and legal on the road.

Check Your Car

The essentials that you need to regularly check and replace if necessary are:

  • Bulbs
  • Wipers
  • Battery
  • Tyres
  • Oil
  • Fluids – anti-freeze in your engine coolant and screen wash

Batteries do a lot of heavy work in the winter. You are more likely to use the heater and lights, and short journeys do not put enough charge via the alternator back into the battery.

It is also worth keeping a set of jump leads in your car.

Some of these essentials are common MOT failures that are easily avoidable.

Clean the Windscreen Inside and Out

Winter driving brings less light and visibility.

Use a clean damp e-cloth to regularly wipe the inside of your windscreen and windows to reduce any dazzling effects.

Breakdown Cover

Having breakdown cover is highly recommended. Save the number in your mobile phone or keep the breakdown card contact details in your visor.


Your tyres are the only contact your vehicle has with the road. It is essential that your tyres are in good condition for your safety.

Check the tread by looking for the wear bars in the tread. The legal minimum is 1.6mm but you need at least 3mm in the winter.

Check the tyres for any damage to the tyre walls.

Driving with insufficient tread on your tyres will result in:

  • Less grip and traction on wet and icy roads and snow
  • Greater stopping distances

You risk being prosecuted for driving a car in a dangerous condition and invalidating your insurance if your tyres are not fit for purpose.

Pack Essentials

It is worth keeping various essentials on your car for winter driving.

I keep the following items on my car:

  • A fleece
  • Hat
  • Torch
  • Ice scraper and de-icer
  • Tyre compressor and digital pressure gauge
  • Umbrella
  • Bottle of water
  • First aid kit
  • Mobile phone power lead

Pack a flask and some snacks before you set off. You don’t want to be tired, hungry and thirsty if you are stranded or stuck in heavy traffic.

Allow More Time for Your Journey

Ensure that your windows are clear of any ice and snow before you set off. Do not use boiling water to de-ice your car windows otherwise you will crack the glass.

Air conditioning demists the car windows much faster than waiting for the car engine to warm up.

Check the weather forecast so you can plan ahead and avoid routes over higher ground if necessary. Stick to busy main roads. They are more likely to have been treated with salt and grit and the traffic will ensure that any snow doesn’t stick.

Try and travel off-peak and during daylight hours. It makes a journey much easier with less traffic on the roads and any hazards are more easily visible.

Expect the unexpected. Look out for debris, fallen trees and branches along with deep puddles and flooded roads.

Keep Your Car Well Ventilated

Do not use the recycling air feature as you want plenty of fresh air to circulate in your car.

Ensure your car is not too hot as it may make you drowsy.

Don’t Drink the Night Before

Drink driving laws vary across the UK. The legal minimum drink-drive limit in Scotland is much lower than it is in the rest of the UK. One drink can put you over the limit.

Level of alcoholEngland, Wales and Northern IrelandScotland
Micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath3522
Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood8050
Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine10767

There are strict penalties for drink-driving with implications that will affect you for many years. You face:

Don’t mix the bottle with the throttle.

Drive To the Conditions

Use higher gears when driving in snow and keep the revs low. Let the engine do the work and keep your speed down. Pull away in second gear with a manual car which is similar to winter mode on automatic cars.

Look ahead and avoid sudden stop-start driving, especially in icy and wintry conditions. Smooth driving will help you maximise your fuel economy as well as keeping you safe.


Use Various Free Apps

Waze and Here We Go can help you find the cheapest fuel and best routes with live traffic maps and alerts.

I prefer the Here We Go app as it is bang up-to-date with all safety camera alerts.

You can also use Google Maps.

Don’t forget to keep your mobile phone in a hands-free cradle and Bluetooth connected to take any calls. Car insurance firms take a dim view of mobile phone offences and many will refuse you cover if convicted.

These are my top 10 tips to keep you safe when driving in the winter. Can you add anything else to this?

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