February has started off with a chilly start as temperatures have dropped across the country.
As forecasters have issued snow and ice warnings this weekend, taking care on the road is more important than ever.
Drivers have been rescued on the roads in Scotland after heavy snow saw vehicles become stranded overnight and buried in the roads.
Not de-icing your car effectively could lead to a £60 fine, points on your license, or even a fine of £2,500 if your vehicle is classed as dangerous.
Here’s how to protect yourself in the snow:
Here are some top tips from GoCompare and RAC for driving in the snow this winter.
How to drive in snow
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.
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 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.
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.
If visibility drops below a 100m, put your fog lights on.
If the road has not been gritted, be wary of driving in the wheel-tracks or other vehicles as compressed snow is likely to be icier than fresh snow.
Controls such as the brakes, as well as the steering, accelerator and even gear changing, should be operated smoothly and slowly.
Sunglasses can help to reduce the glare of low winter sun on the snow.
Keep your speed down and allow more time to stop and steer.
Finally, it’s important to think about the environment that you’re driving in, especially microclimates that might appear on the road.
De-ice your car thoroughly before you drive
Not only could you be fined if you cannot see out of your window screen properly but it is also incredibly dangerous.
Here’s what we’d recommend:
1. Keep a bottle of de-icer in your car.
Squirt it on the outside of the screen if it’s frozen over in the morning, using a proper scraper (not a bank card or CD case) to wipe away any excess water or ice crystals.
2. Don’t reach for the kettle
An important point here – Do not pour a kettle of boiling hot water over the windows in an attempt to melt any ice.
The thermal shock (going from sub-zero temperatures to nearly 100 degrees Celsius in a matter of seconds) can crack your windows, leading to an expensive bill.
3. Use your heater, properly
To stop the inside from misting up – which is caused by hot, wet air – use the heater but start off cold, then slowly increase the temperature as the air dries out.
For more information on how to most effectively clear the inside of your windscreen read our how to demist your windscreen in double-quick time page.
If you use the vehicle’s heater /screen demister, don’t leave your car unattended while you wait for it to defrost as you run the risk of having your vehicle stolen.
4. Do not wipe
Don’t be tempted to wipe the inside of the screen with a cloth.
Although it might give you short-term relief it will leave marks on your windscreen, which could make it harder to see out of in the long run. Persevere with the heater – it shouldn’t take long to demist.
5. Wait for it…
Finally, don’t move off until your windscreen, rear screen, side windows and door mirrors are free of ice, snow or any condensation.
Not only is it highly dangerous – it could mean you miss that car coming as you pull out of a side road. It’s also illegal to drive with poor visibility as stated by the Highway Code.
What else should I do before I set off?
Plan your journey – Carefully work out your route and regularly check travel updates before departure.
Allow for more time – Leave earlier than you normally would before you leave to clear car windows, mirrors, lights and the top of your roof of snow before setting off, driving with snow on you car could result in you breaking the law.
Check your screenwash – Use a good quality screenwash that protects down to at least -35 to prevent the water from freezing.
Check your tyres – Check tyres for adequate tread. Poor tyres will not grip when driving on snow and ice.
What else should I do?
When preparing for your journey, make sure your mobile phone is fully charged, you have an extra set of clothes stored somewhere and that you have a full water bottle – people are surprised when they hear about how often this actually happens and are not fully equipped for longer waiting times than usual.
Wearing comfortable shoes will also benefit driving, as well as pulling off in second gear as this will allow you to avoid wheel spins.
Here’s a list of Scotland’s gritters:
BFG Big Friendly Gritter
For Your Ice Only
Gangsta Granny Gritter
Grit A Bit
Gritty Gritty Bang Bang
I Want To Break Freeze
Licence To Chill
My Name’5 Doddie
Polar Bear Explorer
Ready Spready Go
Sandy The Solway Salter
Scotland’s Bravest Gritter
Sir Andy Flurry
Sir Grits A Lot
Sir Salter Scott
The Golden Great Gritter
The Grittest Snowman
The Incredible Ice Bear
The Snow Buster
The Snow Solution
The Winter Explorer
Yes Sir Ice Can Boogie