How to drive on snow

Vehicle covered in snow

Driving on snow can be very dangerous, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.

With snow predicted in parts of the UK on the first weekend of December, and a deep freeze suggested just before Christmas, we’ve put together some tips on best practice when driving on snow to give you the best chance of reaching your destination safely.

Pre-journey check list for driving on snow:

  • Check your tyres

Do they have adequate tread? You need at least 2mm but ideally 3mm for driving on snow.  If your tyre tread is below 1.6mm then your tyres are illegal and need to be replaced. It’s 3 penalty points per tyre if you fail to meet the basic legal standard.  Don’t be tempted to reduce your tyre pressure for more grip; doing this will only reduce stability.

  • Check your wipers

Turn any automatic wiper function off before turning the engine on. The wiper control fuse could blow if the wipers are frozen to the screen

  • Check you’ve got everything you need

Warm clothes, de-icer, ice scraper, de-mister, a shovel, a torch, phone charger, and if possible, a square of old carpet for under your wheels for traction if you get stuck in the snow.  This is your basic back-up kit for driving on snow.

  • Check you can see properly before setting off

Fully clear the windscreen and mirrors before setting off. Use lukewarm water or de-icer. Never use boiling water! It can crack the windscreen. It’s 3 penalty points on your driving licence for not being in proper control of your vehicle if you have an obstructed view of the road ahead.

  • Check others can see you before setting off

Clear excess snow off the top of your vehicle, lights and number plates before setting off. You could get 3-9 penalty points for careless or inconsiderate driving if the snow falls into the path of another road user during your journey.

How to drive on snow


Setting off:

  • Use second gear to pull away. Ease your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel spin.
  • Accelerate gently, using low revs.
  • Change up to a higher gear as soon as possible

On the road:

  • Leave plenty of room (ten times the usual distance) between your vehicle and the car in front. The car in front might skid and you need to be able to avoid it.
  • Avoid roads which you know are unlikely to have been gritted.
  • Be cautious of driving in other vehicle’s tracks if the road hasn’t been gritted. The snow could be more compressed and therefore icier than fresh snow.
  • Try to wait until any steep hills are clear of moving traffic before you attempt it.
  • Keep a constant speed if possible.
  • Try to use a lower gear to slow down and avoid using the brakes if you can.
  • If you have to use the brakes, apply them very gently.
  • If you skid, steer gently into it. Never take your hands off the steering wheel and don’t be tempted to hit the brakes hard. This will make things worse. If the rear of the car is sliding to the left, steer gently to the left. If It’s sliding to the right, steer gently to the right.

If you get stuck whilst driving in the snow:

  • Straighten the steering.
  • Clear as much snow as possible from the wheels.
  • Try and put something in front of the wheels for grip.
  • Don’t stop until you’re on firmer ground.

If all of the above looks like too much hassle, and your journey really isn’t that important then pop the fire on, grab a cup of tea and declare it a snow day. Nothing is more important than your safety.

Hot chocolate snow day
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Ashworth Motoring Law are experts in defending driving offences such as careless driving, speeding and drink driving. If you have been accused of committing a motoring offence and would like to speak to a specialist motoring law solicitor, call our advice line on 0330 33 22 770 for free initial legal advice. Lines are open round the clock so get in touch whenever’s best for you.