Snow, freezing rain and ice: Prepare in advance for winter driving


24 October 2022

Press Release

Snow, freezing rain and ice: Prepare in advance for winter driving

Did you know it can take up to ten times as long for your vehicle to stop during icy conditions on the road? With the hazards of black ice, ice, snow, freezing rain and ground frost to negotiate during a typical autumn and winter period, National Highways is providing top tips on how road users can stay safe on our A-roads and motorways over the coming months.

National Highways has produced online guidance on its website for handling different weather conditions when the weather gets colder.

There are lots more travel tips, vehicle checks and useful motoring advice for negotiating severe weather on the National Highways website, in keeping with the Safer Roads Campaign, to help improve driver confidence when travelling as temperatures get colder, the nights draw in and the potential for snow, ice and other seasonal weather such as fog, rain and high winds increase.

Dale Hipkiss, National Network Manager at National Highways, said: “In preparation for winter, keeping a kit of essential items like a torch and warm clothes, in your vehicle, can be vital in case you and your passengers become stranded. Freezing conditions bring so many hazards such as snow and ice and take every possible step to understand your journey in advance and allow lots of extra time when travelling to prepare for the unexpected.

“It is therefore always important to plan ahead for your journey, listen to the weather forecasts, and if weather conditions become challenging, adjust your driving behaviour and take extra care.

“We have a section of our website dedicated to travelling during the autumn and winter period, as part of our guide to travelling in severe weather. It’s also a good idea for people to check their vehicles, such as tyres, coolant and oil levels, before heading out to reduce the risk of breakdowns.”

Traffic officers and control room teams at National Highways closely monitor our roads to help keep people moving safely, including during extended periods of sub-zero temperatures.  

Our roads are designed and built to standards that are considered best practice and adopted in other countries around the world. They are highly resilient to extremes of weather, freezing road conditions.

Essential advice for motorists this winter season

Pack a winter kit

  • Carry essential winter supplies just in case you need them, especially if there's a forecast for severe weather.  
  • water 
  • de-icer 
  • food 
  • warm clothes 
  • ice scraper 
  • fully charged mobile and car charger 
  • torch 
  • blankets 
  • boots 
  • snow shovel 
  • sunglasses to cope with the low winter sun 

Snow and ice

  • Stick to the main roads where you can and only travel if necessary. 
  • Slow down - it can take 10 times longer to stop in icy conditions. 
  • Use a high gear - this will help avoid wheel spin. 
  • Accelerate gently, using low revs. You may need to take off in second gear to avoid skidding. 
  • You may need up to 10 times the normal gap between your car and the car in front. 
  • Try not to brake suddenly – it may lock up your wheels and you could skid further. 
  • Be extra cautious at road junctions where road markings may not be visible. 
  • Look out for gritters spreading salt or using snow ploughs, and only overtake if it's safe to do so.

Freezing rain

Keep your distance and reduce speed – black ice is difficult to see, so even when conditions seem normal, it can be slippery, leading to very dangerous driving conditions.

The Highway Code

The Highway Code provides more information about driving in icy and snowy weather.

Ready for changing weather 

Autumn and winter can bring more adverse and severe weather conditions which can affect motorists and these include fog, heavy rain, high winds and gales and ice and snow.

Along with more than 250 weather stations, that provide us with real time information about localised road conditions, National Highways works with independent meteorological experts DTN and Metdesk which run from October 1 to April 30 and complement the national Met Office weather forecast, providing a level of granularity and precision about changing road surface temperatures across our road network. This gives us the detailed knowledge determine where and when to salt roads so they remain open and safe for people to use.

All of the information we gather helps us to inform road users about current road conditions whatever the weather. We also share information through channels including our website, third party travel providers including sat nav companies and local radio stations.  

Abigail Oakes, Senior Account Manager at the Met Office, said: “We’re working closely with National Highways throughout the year to help people stay safe on the roads. 

“In addition to our year-round national forecasts, National Highways have access to Met Office meteorologists working alongside their team to offer support throughout the autumn and winter. Together, we’re providing the best possible support for road users during periods of severe weather.” 

A spokesperson for the Met Office said, “Winter weather brings with it the risk of impactful weather, including storms, rain, ice and snow. Cold winter weather can dramatically change driving conditions so it’s important to stay up-to-date with the forecast and listen to local travel advice.”

Visit the Met Office for advice on travelling in snow and ice and search WeatherReady for advice on preparing ahead of severe weather.

We have invested £44m over two years replacing 252 gritters. National Highways now has around 530 gritting vehicles which can be out on our roads in sub-zero temperatures helping us to maintain our network and enhance our service to customers. This equates to one gritter for every eight miles of road. The 530 gritters includes 443 Volvo Romaquip gritting vehicles – all of which have been introduced through the replacement programme that started in 2018.

These vehicles are based at 128 depots nationwide with a stockpile of around 280,000 tonnes of salt for the autumn and winter season. There are two new depots in this total – one at Malton, on the A64 and one at Newport on the A63, both in Yorkshire. 

National Highways has lots of advice on its website around travelling in severe weather conditions, including high winds and gales, fog, rain and snow and ice. Visit our travelling in severe weather web page.

Weather forecasts and information can be found on the Met Office website here.

Travel updates

Drivers are advised to follow messages on the overhead signs and listen to radio updates.

Further information is available on travelling in winter web page.

Further information can be found by visiting the travel updates page, and by following @highwaysnwest @highwaysneast @highwaysseast @highwaysswest @highwayseast @highwayswmids, @highwaysemids @highwaysyorks on Twitter or calling the National Highways Customer Contact Centre on 0300 123 5000.

Notes to Editors

National Highways is the wholly government-owned company responsible for modernising, maintaining and operating England’s motorways and major A roads.

Real-time traffic information for England’s motorways and major A roads is available via the Traffic England website, local and national radio travel bulletins, electronic road signs and mobile apps. Local Twitter services are also available.

For further information please contact National Highways' press office (24hrs) on 0844 693 1448 and select the most appropriate option:

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