Driving in severe weather

Always adjust your driving according to the conditions and plan your journey by checking the latest weather forecast.

Make sure that you can see clearly and that you can be seen. For example, clear ice and snow off all windows and lights before you set off. Use at least dipped headlights in poor visibility – and don’t just rely on daytime running lights if you have them.

There are many types of weather that can create challenging road conditions during winter. Click on the links below:

Driving in ice and snow
Driving in rain and floods
Driving in fog
Driving in windy weather
Advice for trucks and coach drivers (opens PDF)

You should drive with care and respect the road conditions wherever you drive. The Highways Agency looks after England’s motorways and major A roads, local authorities look after all the other roads, and they all work as hard as they can to keep our networks clear during severe weather. You need to take even more care driving on minor roads, as not every road can be treated. Even where they have been treated it’s not the same as driving on a clear, dry road in the summer.

Carry a winter kit
Gather together the following items and pack 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 low winter sun and glare off snow can be dazzling)
In addi­tion, when set­ting out on jour­neys dur­ing the win­ter sea­son remem­ber to take with you:

Food and a ther­mos with a hot drink
Any med­ica­tion you, or other peo­ple trav­el­ling with you, need to take regularly.
Driving in ice and snow HA snow
The Highways Agency looks after England’s motorways and major A roads, and local authorities look after all the other roads. Both work as hard as they can to keep their networks clear during severe weather.

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

You should drive with care and respect the road conditions wherever you drive, but not every road can be treated. You need to take even more care driving on minor roads.

Even if the time and location of snowfall is perfectly forecast, it will still take time to clear the snow after it has fallen. Remember though, snow ploughs can’t get through if the road or motorway is full of stationary traffic, so give Highways Agency and local authority teams the space they need to do their job and help you on your journey!

Steep hills and exposed roads are also likely to present more challenging driving conditions in snow and ice, so if you could avoid these it might make your journey easier.
Clear any snow off the roof of the vehicle before you drive away.
Watch out for icy conditions – look for clues such as ice on the pavement or on your windscreen before you start your journey and take extra care.
Try not to brake suddenly – it may lock up your wheels and you could skid further.
Leave extra space between you and other vehicles. Take even more care looking out for others that may not be able to stop and be extra cautious at road junctions where road markings may not be visible.
Look out for winter service vehicles spreading salt or using snow ploughs. They have flashing amber beacons and travel at slower speeds – around 40 mph. Stay well back because salt or spray can be thrown across the road. Do not overtake unless it is safe to do so – there may be uncleared snow on the road ahead.
Driving in rain and floods HA spray
When the road is wet it can take twice as long to stop. Slow down and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
If your vehicle loses grip (aqua­planes) on surface water, take your foot off the accelerator to slow down. Do not brake or steer suddenly because you have less control of the steering and brakes.
Try to avoid driving through surface water as you might flood your engine.
If you have to drive through floods, drive slowly, use a low gear and try to keep the engine revving at a high rate. Move forward continuously to avoid stalling the engine. When driving an automatic vehicle, engage and hold in a low gear.
Test your brakes after driving through water; they may be ineffective.
Driving in fog HA fog
Use dipped headlights so that other drivers can see you.
If it is foggy (less than 100 m visibilities) then switch on your fog lights. Do not forget to turn them off when conditions improve.
Fog is often patchy so try not to speed up as visibility improves. You could suddenly find yourself back in thick fog further up the road.
Driving in windy weather HA wind
Take extra care on the roads and plan your journey by checking the latest weather conditions.
Though high-sided vehicles are particularly affected by windy weather, strong winds can also blow other vehicles 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.