Driving In Snow

When using Snow chains:

Ensure you have the right size chains for your tires. Our installation page here: how to size tire chains gives advice on choosing the right size chains. Failure to choose the right chains could damage your tires, chains or even your vehicle. It could also impair your driving in what are already difficult conditions.

Take the time to practice putting them on and off at home, and learn how to tighten them if needed. This will save time and effort when you need to put them on later.

Only put chains on when you have to. Don't put them on prematurely 'just on case' or because you expect bad weather on the journey; you could damage the chains before you need to use them in earnest.

Be aware that driving with chains is different than driving with 'bare' tires. Be careful with your speed, do not go over 30mph. Accelerate and brake slowly, giving yourself plenty of time. Avoid anything that could damage or compromise the chains, such as hitting the kerb, locking the wheels, driving on roads that has no snow or ice on it, or spinning your tires.

If the chains become loose or breaks during your journey then stop to fix it. Do not attempt to continue on chains in this condition, you could damage your tires or vehicle and your driving could be compromised.

Research has shown that tire chains do improve safety and performance and are better than simple everyday tires, and even all-weather or snow tires but only if used correctly. Recognize and compensate for the fact that over-steer can occur if chains are put on the front wheel of a front wheel drive vehicle, and under-steer if chains are put on the back wheels of a rear-wheel drive vehicle. If you have a 4 wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle then chains should be put on all 4 wheels.


Know the conditions and plan ahead:

Check the weather before you leave. Use 511 weather check if your area has it.

If making a long journey then an emergency kit in the trunk is a good idea. If possible also tell someone the route you will take, where you are going, and estimated arrival time.


During the journey:

Clear all existing snow and ice from the windows, lights, hood and roof before driving. Stop frequently, if required, to brush accumulating snow from headlights and tail lights, windows, number plates, and wheel arches if need be.

Turn on your lights. Help others to see you as well as you see where you are going. Sometimes, in the worst weather, your only indication for the road may be the tail lights of the vehicle in front of you. Use low beams, as visibility will probably be reduced.

It is easy to become drowsy if you have the heater turned up so ensure your car is well ventilated. Tiredness can cause accidents in even the best of conditions, let alone poor weather.

Remember that the posted speed limits are for good conditions. Driving the posted limit in bad weather can lead to accidents. Pay attention to them, the weather and the road conditions, and slow down accordingly.

Be aware of the vehicles in front of you. Look further ahead than usual. Their actions could warn you to possible bad road conditions ahead. An extra split-second to respond could mean the difference between stopping safely and crashing.

Accelerate and brake smoothly and slowly. Give yourself plenty of time to stop; you may need 10x the stopping distance on icy roads. Give yourself extra time to slow down before corners and bends. Sharp braking on a bend during wintery conditions can be very dangerous and it is easy to go into a spin. If you need to brake then allow your speed to fall gradually and brake gently.

It should go without saying but do not use cruise control during ice and snow conditions. You should be in control of your vehicle at all times to instantly respond to situations. Touching your brakes to turn off cruise control during a slide on a slippery surface could make a bad situation worse.

Be aware that the road surfaces are most likely to have patches of snow and ice rather than be uniform. Pay attention to areas that may be in shadow, such as under bridges, where the road could still be icy in times of thawing. Also watch out for slippery bridge surfaces; they tend to freeze up before the main road surfaces do.

Pay attention to exit ramps as well as they tend to get less attention than the main highways in regards to salting and plowing.

Whilst 4x4s have better traction than normal passenger vehicles they are also usually heavier and thus take longer to stop. You can just as easily lose traction in a 4x4 so do not be overconfident in your vehicle's performance.