Home » Blog » Seven Out of Ten Brits Scared to Drive in the Snow

Seven Out of Ten Brits Scared to Drive in the Snow

Tire of car on snow covered and icy road

Despite the UK’s ever-changing weather patterns, snow is a rarity for most parts of the country. On average, it snows no more than fifteen times a year, and often the snow doesn’t stay around long enough to stick to the ground. 

Quite simply, Briton’s just aren’t prepared for icier, snowier conditions to the point they are potentially putting themselves and other motorists at risk. 

As we head further into the winter season, we surveyed 3,500 people to find out how they felt about driving in the snow. A staggering 69% said they fear it, while only 31% were willing to give it a go. 

With seven out of ten Brits scared to drive in the snow, we’ve rounded up some helpful tips to keep you safe on the roads this winter:

Do all your regular checks before winter comes

Although winter is quickly approaching, there’s still time to do all your regular checks before the chilly season gets well underway:

  • Check oil and coolant levels
  • Ensure your tyre pressures are satisfactory and check for wear and tear
  • Make sure all your lights are working, from indicators to fog lights
  • Test all of your car’s systems, such as your heated windscreen
  • Get a service booked in if your vehicle hasn’t been serviced in a while

The more able and roadworthy your motor is ahead of the dropping temperatures, the more likely you’ll avoid any expensive repair jobs this winter. If you have any electrical or mechanical faults, now is the time to get them sorted. 

The problem (and solution): winter tyres

While drivers living in Sweden, Canada and Switzerland are well versed in driving in the snow, the same winter tyres that have been optimised for much colder conditions may not translate directly to UK conditions. 

You see, the British climate is both wet and relatively warm. So the softer rubber tyres designed to maintain grip well below freezing would wear faster on typical UK winter days. 

The combination of low levels of snow mixed with thawing ice and water creates slushy, slippery conditions. Due to the slightly warmer UK climate, the snow doesn’t get a chance to become firmer, crunchier and therefore provide more grip underfoot. This is the predominant reason why the country will often come to a standstill. 

But, when temperatures begin to drop under 7°C, winter tyres have been proven to reduce stopping distances and make your car easier to control. So even though the UK has one of the slowest uptakes in winter or all-weather tyres in Europe, now’s the time to consider upgrading your tyres for the chillier months. 

Check your battery

Car batteries simply don’t like the cold, especially if you are not driving your motor regularly. As the temperature begins to fall, you might notice your car lagging or slowing down. If this is the case, it’s likely that your battery is on the way out, and you should get it tested by your local dealer or garage. 

Checking your battery every few months will ensure that you won’t come to a grinding halt on the side of the road due to battery failure. But also, if you find your battery going flat after a few days, you may have a fault within your vehicle’s system that should be looked at by a mechanic to resolve any issues quickly. 

Keep an eye on antifreeze

Antifreeze does exactly what its name suggests. If your vehicle’s cooling system doesn’t have enough antifreeze in it, you will likely experience a major failure. Typically, this will result in a cracked radiator due to your car’s thermometer plummeting below zero – which will have an impact on your bank balance! 

To avoid unnecessary big repair bills this winter, refer to your car’s manual handbook to see what type of antifreeze you should be using and how to mix it properly. If you are unsure, pop down to your local garage, and they will be able to test it for you. 

While you’re under the bonnet, make sure the rest of the cooling system is in good working order. Pay close attention to the coolant hoses, water pump and radiator to ensure there are no leaks or visible damage. 

Check your brakes

Stopping distances are much greater on icy or snowy roads. While your tyres are doing much of the heavy lifting, it’s your brakes that bring you to a stop. With that in mind, worn or faulty brakes will not only affect your control of the car, but you will be putting others at risk if they are not working correctly.

If you notice that your brakes have become “spongy,” any rattles, shakes or squeals, or your stopping distance is much longer than it used to be, it’s time to get your braking system looked at. 

Visibility is essential

Did you know that it is against the law to drive if you cannot see clearly out of your windscreen? Whether that’s ice or your window’s are all steamed up, you need to have good visibility before you pull away from your parking spot – and we all know how problematic that can be during the winter. 

However, the Highway Code is explicitly clear. It states that ‘windscreens and windows MUST be kept clean and free from obstructions to vision.’ So anything that creates a blind spot – a smattering of mud or a misted-up windscreen or side windows- would be deemed an obstruction, thus making your vehicle unsafe to drive. 

To avoid any penalties on the road, you should ensure:

  • All windows are free from ice and mist: whether you defrost your car from the inside out or use a scraper, ensure you have good visibility
  • Replace any wiper blades that are in poor condition
  • Top up your washer fluid with a winter screenwash
  • Keep clean cloths or a shammy on hand to wipe down any glass or side mirrors

Top tip: carry extra screenwash in the boot, so you can top up your washer levels as you go.

If you have any notable chips or cracks in your windscreen, it’s also recommended that you get them looked at ahead of the colder weather. After all, as water expands and retracts, those micro-cracks can become far more severe. 

Give your doors and locks the once over

Trying to open a frozen car door is one of the most frustrating challenges we have all faced during the early morning chills. The cold makes the doors stick to their seals, and pulling them too hard can cause them to break or get severely damaged in the process. But if you think that dousing your doors with hot water will do the trick, then think again!

You’re better off using a quality rubber care stick or a silicone lubricant to prepare your door seals and locks for the plummeting temperatures. That way, your car doors will be less likely to stick, and you won’t curse yourself during your morning’s rush! 

Consider snow chains

While most of the UK averages less than 5cm of snowfall a year, the north of the country, such as the Cairngorms in Scotland, the Shetlands, and the North Pennines, get a picture-perfect delivery of snow for between 50 – 75 days per year. 

If you happen to live in an area of high snowfall, it’s worth investing in a set of snow chains to keep you on the road. Setting you back around £50 online, a decent set of snow chains can be installed and fitted within minutes – with a bit of practice!

Then there are snow socks to consider. Like snow chains, they give your tyres enough grip and added traction to drive safely over snow-covered roads. Once you hit clean asphalt, you will need to remove them carefully before you continue with your journey. 

For both snow chains and socks, make sure you carry a set of disposable gloves and a couple of bin liners to put them in once you’re done. No one wants to mess up their back seat or boot after all!

In emergencies, it’s worth chucking some offcuts of old carpet to your boot. These are a simple way of getting unstuck, no matter if it’s snow, sand or mud. 

Don’t leave home without a survival kit!

Now that your car is fully prepped for the winter, it’s time to pack your chilly season survival kit! While coming to a grinding halt at the edge of the road or getting stuck in the snow is unlikely, it’s always good to be prepared for the worst. 

Our winter survival kit looks like this:

  • A torch
  • A strong tow strap
  • Jump leads
  • Spare bulbs
  • A hi-vis jacket
  • Warm clothes, such as a jumper, coat and spare fluffy socks!
  • A phone charger
  • Some long date snacks (yes, chocolate!) and bottled water
  • An old-school but up to date map – for when the Sat Nav simply can’t cut it

For those who live in heavy snowfall areas and might require a few extras to get you unstuck, you may want to consider packing:

  • A shovel
  • Some old carpet
  • Spare wooden planks

Plus, adding a small selection of handy tools, coolants, oils, an ancillary belt, and screenwash wouldn’t go amiss. 

Winter is coming, and preparing your car to take on the chilly season ahead of time will ensure you avoid any potential breakdowns or pricey visits to the garage. What checks will you do first?