Tips on how to drive safely in heavy snow conditions and strong winds as Storm Emma rages on


Expert advise from the RAC

This week Britain has battled blizzards, strong winds and heavy snow, as the harsh weather conditions caused by the collision between Storm Emma, and the Beast from the East rage on.

Today the Met Office issued yellow warnings in most parts of the UK, including the East Midlands, Wales, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, East of England, South West England, North East and North West.

The harsh weather conditions have claimed ten lives to date, the youngest victim being a seven-year-old girl in Cornwall who was killed after a car lost control and crashed into her house.

Elsewhere, the Army has been called in to help the Greater Manchester Police rescue hundreds of drivers stranded in the snow on the M62.

Experts are advising people not to drive unless absolutely necessary.

To ensure motorists stay safe on the roads we’ve complied useful guidance and advice from the RAC .

The tips include information on how to drive safely in heavy snow conditions, as well as how to navigate icy roads and dealing with strong winds.

Read these tips from the RAC on how to drive safely in snow and icy weather conditions:

Wear comfortable and dry footwear

Accelerate gently, use low revs and change up to a higher gear as quickly as possible

Move off in second gear as this will help reduce wheel slip – some cars have a winter mode, which does the same job – so to check whether your car has this function in the vehicle’s handbook

Get your speed right and maintain safe stopping distances between you and the car in front, leaving as much as 10 times the normal recommended gap

Prepare for an uphill start by leaving plenty of room in front so you can maintain a constant speed without the need for changing gear

Use a low gear for going downhill and try to avoid braking unless necessary, make sure you leave plenty of space between you and the car in front

When approaching a bend, brake before you actually start to turn the steering wheel. If your car does lose grip try not to panic; the key thing is to take your foot off the accelerator and make sure that your wheels are pointing in the direction you want to go in

If you do encounter a skid, steer gently into it – for example, if the rear of the car is sliding to the right, steer to the right. Do not take your hands off the steering wheel or stamp your foot on the brakes

When driving in heavy snow, make sure that you use your dipped headlights. Relying on daytime running lights is not enough, because they don’t always put lights on the back of your car

If visibility drops below a 100m, put your fog lights on. But remember to turn them off when the visibility improves

Controls such as the brakes, as well as the steering, accelerator and even gear changing should be operated smoothly and slowly

If the road has not been gritted, be wary of driving in the wheeltracks or other vehicles as compressed snow is likely to be more icy than fresh snow

Sunglasses can help to reduce the glare of low winter sun on the snow

It’s important to think about the environment that you’re driving in, especially micro-climates that might appear on the road. These are areas that perhaps the sun hasn’t got to, which could stay icy when the rest of the road has thawed. Bridges are a good example. They’re normally the first to freeze and the last to thaw. So be aware of that when you’re driving in open spaces.

Make sure you keep your car clean. The salt used to de-ice roads can cause corrosion to your car over time, so it’s worth making a point of cleaning it regularly throughout the winter months.

Read these tips from the RAC on how to drive safely in windy weather:

Pack well: It is a good idea to pack provisions before leaving if there’s a chance severe weather could disrupt your journey or cause a breakdown. We recommend warm clothes, a fully charged mobile phone, some food and water.

Listen out: If you do have to travel, listen out for local news bulletins to keep up to date with road closures, the last thing you want is to get stuck in a queue of traffic due to a road closure you could have avoided.

Plan your journey: Research your route before you leave to find out if there is a route with less exposure to the weather. Always choose a sheltered route if you have the option and let people know you’re travelling in case you get stuck and your phone runs out of battery.

Drive slowly: High winds can get under a car and affect its handling and braking significantly, this will be brought on by strong gusts which could take you by surprise. Slowing down will help anticipate these gusts and will reduce the impact they have on your driving too.

Don’t leave yourself exposed: As well as driving fast, areas of the road that are more exposed will leave your vehicles more susceptible to the impact of sudden gusts of wind, prepare yourself when approaching.

Careful when overtaking: High-sided vehicles in particular can represent a hazard when overtaking. Driving past large vehicles can result in a sudden gust from the side as you clear, so be prepared for this change in how the vehicle may respond and do not attempt the manoeuvre unless you are certain it is safe and you are prepared to do so.

Hold firm: Make sure you hold the steering wheel firmly. Strong winds are not constant; they’re usually gusty and can catch you off guard, the key is not to grip too tightly, which may restrict your movement or cause you to jerk the wheel, but to maintain a firm grasp so you have as much control over the wheel as possible.

Allow more room: In particular give cyclists, motorcyclists, lorries and buses more room than usual. They get blown around easily by side winds.

Keep an eye out: Pay attention to what is happening to other vehicles. Spotting when and where other vehicles appear to be blown off course by the wind will give you a pre-warning of the conditions.

More distance: Keep extra distance between you and the car in front – consider increasing the two-second rule to three seconds.

Park safe: Make sure that you park your car in a safe place – avoid parking under trees, near buildings, telephone lines or other structures that could represent a falling-danger in severe winds.

Four things to be wary of:

As well as following the above advice make sure you stay alert and be on the lookout for these potentially hazardous occurrences.


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