Travelling in winter
Find out how to make your journeys as smooth and safe as possible, and what we’re doing to help you.
Preparing for winter journeys
To ensure your travel plans go without a hitch, it’s important to plan your journey in advance, particularly if you’re travelling on routes you’re not familiar with.
- Plan your route
- Check your vehicle
- Pack a winter kit
- Check the weather forecast
- Check traffic conditions
- Follow our severe weather driving advice
- Take a safer driving refresher
Plan your route
Use your satnav or an online route finder to plan your journey, and allow yourself plenty of time for the trip.
Be aware that many ports are currently suffering from congestion due to Covid-19 restrictions, so allow extra time if you’re travelling to or through these areas.
It’s a good idea to check the current status of service areas along your route.
Check your vehicle
Before setting off, remember to:
Check fuel: make sure you have enough to get to your destination.
Check tyres: check the pressure and the condition of your tyres, including the spare. Look out for cuts or wear and make sure the tyres have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm, which is the legal limit.
Check engine oil: use your dipstick to check the oil before any long journey and top up if needed. Take your car to a garage if you’re topping up more than usual.
Check screen wash: make sure you always have good visibility by keeping your screen wash topped up so you can clear debris or dirt off your windscreen.
Check lights: check your indicators, hazard lights, headlights, fog lights, reverse lights and brake lights. If they’re not functioning properly, you’re putting yourself at risk. Also, light malfunctions can be a reason for your vehicle to fail its MOT.
As well as checking your vehicle, if you’re towing, make sure you have the correct licence and insurance to tow the weight of your load, and that it’s correctly connected and secured.
Find out more about making sure your vehicle is ready for the road.
Pack a winter kit
It's worth carrying essential winter supplies just in case you need them, especially if there's a forecast for severe weather:
- warm clothes
- ice scraper
- fully charged mobile and car charger
- snow shovel
- sunglasses to cope with the low winter sun
Check the weather forecast
Always check the weather forecast before setting out. If extreme weather is forecast or weather warnings are in place, consider delaying your journey if possible.
Check traffic conditions
Check your route for incidents or planned roadworks which may affect your journey.
Information about traffic conditions is on our website and on Twitter. We can also be contacted on 0300 123 5000.
Follow our severe weather driving advice
During severe winter weather, we urge you to follow this advice:
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.
Slow down and avoid using exposed sections of road if possible. Lorries, caravans and motorbikes are at particular risk.
Keep well back from the vehicle in front, gradually ease off the accelerator if steering becomes unresponsive, and slow down if the rain and spray from vehicles makes it difficult to see and be seen.
Switch on your fog lights and don’t use lights on full beam as the fog will reflect the light back at you. If you really can’t see, consider stopping until it’s safe to continue.
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 provides more information about driving in adverse weather conditions.
Take a safer driving refresher
It’s a good time to give yourself a refresher on safe driving behaviour and the rules of the road, particularly if you don’t regularly use motorways or make long journeys.
Our driving on motorways page tells you what you need to know about using the motorway network.
When the gritters are out
On motorways our gritters will usually be salting from the middle lanes, at speeds up to 50mph, but you may also find them salting in any lane when necessary. Where possible message signs will inform you that salt spreading or snowploughing is taking place.
During snow, our gritters will be out on the roads with their snowploughs fitted, and when clearing snow may be found travelling in any lane at speeds between 5 and 40mph.
Please help us to help you by giving them time and space to do their job. In particular:
- Never tailgate – always leave a sensible distance between you and the gritter
- Pass carefully – only when it’s safe to do so
- Don’t use a hard shoulder – unless it's open for use as indicated by the overhead signs
- Don’t undertake – our gritters need to change lanes at junctions
- Reduce your speed and adapt your driving when conditions are severe
Find out about how we help you on our roads in winter.