Driving in Bad Weather Winter Conditions

The following winter driving safety tips can be applied in any country that gets snow and ice. They are based on the UK Highways Agency and Department for Transport’s “Think!” road safety campaign
Winter conditions can be highly unpredictable. If you must drive during severe weather, make sure you are prepared for the conditions.
Check local and national weather forecasts. Listen to travel information on radio.

Take care around gritters and snowploughs. Don’t be tempted to overtake snowploughs by squeezing into partially cleared lanes.
It can take ten times further to stop in icy conditions. Allow extra room to slow down and stop. [DSA addendum: When following another vehicle on compacted snow or ice, use the ten-second rule rather than the two-second rule. Click here for details.]

Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin. Manoeuvre gently and avoid harsh braking and acceleration. If you start to skid, gently ease off the accelerator and try to avoid braking. If braking becomes necessary, brake very gently.

When driving in snow, make sure you’re equipped with de-icer, warm clothes, one or more warm blankets, food, water, boots, a torch (i.e. flashlight) and spade.

Other Links

Icepack — Winter driving advice

The military driving handbook, Chapter 21, deals with ‘Off Road and Winter Driving’

Relevant News Items

March 18, 2005: Experts blame Thursday’s traffic carnage on complacency and excessive speeds

…..In the space of ten minutes, at around 8 a.m. in the morning rush-hour [yesterday], four main arteries into Helsinki were blocked by wrecked vehicles, as fine, powdery snow and freezing rain took drivers unawares. Police and rescue services, who were seriously stretched by the simultaneous occurrences, have already blamed excessive speeds for the carnage.

[After the occurrence] comes consideration of what went wrong to cause such a massive event, in which upwards of 200 cars were written off.
The road conditions were obviously a significant factor. Roads in the capital area were extremely slick as a belt of fine snow and freezing rain swept across from the west. The overcast, slightly warmer conditions meant the road surfaces were moist, and when a layer of new snow was placed on them, they became an ice rink. At the same time, visibility was seriously hampered by the falling snow.

Nevertheless, Finland is not a country that is unfamiliar with winter driving conditions. Equally pertinent to the problem is the weather that preceded Thursday: day after day of cold clear mornings and dry road surfaces that encouraged people to believe they were driving in summer conditions.

“What is clear already is that the speeds being driven were too high relative to the road conditions”, said Chief Superintendent Seppo Kujala of the Vantaa Police. “Apparently people were driving at motorway speeds. The result resembled the grisly mass pile-ups on the German autobahns.” Kujala’s remarks were echoed by rescue personnel, who commented that what they saw on Thursday morning was absolutely unprecedented in the Finnish experience.

Warnings had been issued the previous day of impending difficult conditions, but nobody had predicted things would get this bad. Despite the rise in temperature mentioned above, it was still too cold for salting to have been of any great value….

Full story, from Helsingin Sanomat