Driving in Winter

Road Safety - Driving in Winter - Advice issued by the Highways Agency

Have you planned your journey?

In severe and wintry weather it's even more important to plan your journey. The Highways Agency provides up to the minute traffic reports for its network of 4,300 miles of motorways and major A roads across England.

Before you set off

Visit www.highways.gov.uk/winter to see the latest traffic reports, maps showing how the traffic is flowing on England's motorways and major A roads, a motorway flow diagram, views from CCTV cameras, average speeds and the displays on motorway message signs.

If you are away from your computer or have already set out on your journey, there are still lots of ways to get Highways Agency live traffic information.

Updates on the move

On overhead message signs - HA control centres will flash up important travel messages, including warning you of delays and advising of alternative routes. Automatic signs will tell you how long it will take traffic to reach certain destinations at that time.

There is a free app for your iPhone or you can visit www.highways.gov.uk/winter to access a mobile friendly version. This will allow you to select live updates by road, region or motorway. Remember: Never stop on the hard shoulder to do this and never use your mobile phone while driving.

Follow the Highways Agency Twitter channels @winterhighways (and @HA_Christmas over the festive period) will help you prepare for your winter journey with timely reminders and traffic updates.

Check weather updates

Take weather conditions into account when planning your route by visiting The Met Office website or listening to local radio broadcasts.


Always allow extra time in severe weather. Listen to warnings or advice and consider whether or not your journey is essential.

Check your planned route at http://www.highways.gov.uk/traffic/traffic.aspx where you can find up-to-date traffic information.

Be prepared

Is your vehicle ready for winter?

What can you do to reduce the chances of breaking down?

Check your vehicle is in good running order before you set out and consider regular servicing to help minimise the risk.

Use this POWDERY checklist as a good reminder:

  • PETROL (or diesel). Have you got enough? Do you know where to fill up?
  • OIL - check levels once a month
  • WATER - check radiator and screenwash once a month
  • DAMAGE - check wipers, lights etc for signs of wear and tear or damage
  • ELECTRICS - check lights, indicators and controls are working properly
  • RUBBER TYRES - are they well inflated, legal, with good tread and free from damage?
  • YOURSELF - are you fit to drive? Have you slept well? Are you taking any medication(s) that could make it unsafe for you to drive?

If you are planning to travel with pets, ensure that animals are safe and secure, and will not be a distraction to people travelling in your vehicle - seek appropriate advice before you travel.

For more information visit www.highways.gov.uk/winter

Carry an emergency kit

Gather together the following items and pack in your vehicle at the start of the winter season, you never know when you might need them!

  • Ice scraper and de-icer
  • Torch and spare batteries - or a wind-up torch
  • Warm clothes and blankets - for you and all passengers
  • Boots
  • First aid kit
  • Jump leads
  • A shovel
  • Road atlas
  • Sunglasses (the glare off snow can be dazzling)

For more information visit www.highways.gov.uk/winter

Make Time for Tyre Safety in Winter

Some handy advice from Tyresafe, the tyre safety organisation:

In the winter months it is essential that your tyres are well maintained. Cold temperatures, damp roads, snow and ice all reduce a tyre's ability to grip the road properly, leading to longer stopping distances and a higher risk of an accident.

The safest option in these conditions is to fit winter weather tyres which are specifically designed to provide extra grip and improved levels of safety at temperatures lower then 7°C. Even if you don't switch to winter weather tyres, you can still carry out a number of checks for maximum safety.

In winter, tread depth should be checked to ensure it is well above the legal minimum of 1.6mm across the central ¾ of the tyre, around its entire circumference. TyreSafe has developed the 20p test for a simple and quick way to test your tyres' tread depth.

Tyre pressures should be checked every two weeks and before a long journey. Pressures should be checked when the tyres are cold (i.e. travelled less than 2 miles) against the vehicle manufacturers recommended levels.

When checking tyre pressures give the rest of the tyre a thorough visual inspection for any signs of damage. Look for any cuts, cracks or bulges or embedded objects. If you are in any doubt about the condition of your tyres, speak to a professional.

For more information about winter weather tyres or general tyre safety visit: http://www.tyresafe.org/.