Driving on Ice

How To Drive in Icy Conditions

When driving in winter weather conditions, often ice or black ice can make getting from A to B a little more challenging. Follow our top tips for driving safely in winter weather:

  • Drive slowly in as high a gear as you can
  • Accelerate and brake gently when you need to start and stop
  • Turning on bends is often where most drivers lose control, take corners slowly to avoid skidding
  • Avoid braking suddenly when approaching a bend – when safe to do so, brake before you reach a bend before turning
  • If your steering is unresponsive, then the road surface may be too icy to manoeuvre safely – find a safe place to pull over if your grip/traction on the road stops
  • Tyres are very quiet, if not silent on ice – this can be an indicator that you are driving on ice and you should be mindful of other vehicles which may take you by surprise


How To Drive on Ice

Although the appearance of snow and ice can be a rarity in the UK climate, it’s important to understand how to drive safely and carefully in these conditions. A great place to start with this before even getting into your car is to choose a tyre that is designed to provide traction and grip in icy and cold conditions. Choosing a winter tyre that has been designed to work best in temperatures around 7°c and below and deal with ice and snow will give you reassurance when it comes to staying mobile safely in winter as well as giving optimum grip and traction for handling and shorter braking distances compared to summer tyres. Read our article comparing breaking distances between summer and winter tyres on icy road conditions

A good indicator of whether a tyre is designed for icy conditions is if it has been given an ‘ice tyre’ icon on the EU Tyre Label. The ice tyre icon was added to the EU Tyre Label in 2021 and indicated a tyre provided shorter braking distances on icy road surfaces in winter. The icon itself features an ice stalagmite.



Things To Check Before You Drive

The Highway Code in the UK dictates that extra preparation and care must be taken during adverse winter weather conditions in order to keep drivers, passengers and pedestrians safe. Before heading out you should consider the following:

  • If conditions are extremely poor, consider whether your journey is essential or could be postponed until conditions are better – follow the local forecast for any updates and weather warnings
  • Before setting off check the route you are planning to take has no delays or further poor weather predicted
  • Tyres should be checked all year round before starting your journey to ensure your tyres still have plenty of tread depth and are in good condition for providing optimal grip and traction
  • Leave extra time to clear your windscreen, all windows, mirrors and lights of any snow and ice – ensure you have full visibility from all of your windows
  • Remove any snow and ice on your vehicle that could fall off and impact other road users

Winter Tyre Focus: UltraGrip Performance+

Wet and dry winter performance.

Popular choice for: Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Audi A4

Available in sizes: 15” – 22”

Short Braking Distances on Wet & Dry Roads

Braking forces are easily transmitted into grip. New traction resin improves de and reformation capabilities of the tyre. 

Improved Grip on Snow & Ice

New compound mixture promotes improved rubber elasticity at low temperatures.

 





Tips for Driving in Icy Conditions

When it comes to driving in icy conditions, many of the recommendations are similar to that of driving in snow conditions:

  • Plan your journey, check the forecast and any road incident reports
  • Leave more time than usual to defrost the car and allow for slow traffic on icy roads
  • Have a small winter kit handy (see our suggestions in our Guide to Driving in Snow)
  • Keep a safe distance between the car in front of you
  • Maintain a slow steady speed, accelerating and braking smoothly
  • If the vehicle starts to skid on the ice, steer into the way the car is sliding and do not brake suddenly
  • Be careful on ungritted roads

 



How Much Can Stopping Distance Increase in Icy Conditions?

 

Stopping distance on ice can be vastly different depending on the type of tyres you have fitted to your car. By fitting winter tyres that are designed for cold conditions, the performance, handling and stopping distance can be improved versus using summer tyres in winter conditions.

Given the stopping distances can vary in harsh winter conditions, it emphasises the need to maintain more space than usual between your vehicle and the vehicle in front to ensure plenty of stopping space for any unexpected events.





What is Black Ice?

Black ice is a very thin coating of ice that is transparent in colour – often this appears on roads or pavements which are dark in colour, hence it takes on the colour of a surface and is called black ice. Due to the invisible nature of black ice, it makes it a very dangerous condition to be driving in as it is difficult to avoid something you cannot see very easily. It tends to build up in areas of shade, tunnels and bridges – mostly at the coldest parts of the day like early morning and late at night. 



How To Drive on Black Ice

Black ice takes drivers by surprise – the slippery road surface can mean that even the best winter tyres are unable to maintain contact with the road surface which leads to a lack of grip and traction. If you drive over a patch of black ice it will feel as though the vehicle is swerving, it’s important to not panic and follow these tips:

  • Pass over the patch without hitting the brakes or accelerator suddenly – instead decelerate by lowering the gears
  • Keep your steering wheel straight – avoid over-correction which could lead to leaving the road or heading for the wrong side of the road
  • If possible and safe, edge the vehicle towards areas of white snow, gravel or grit/sand which can help to provide traction


Are SUVs and 4x4s Better on Icy Roads?

Tyres can make a big difference to any vehicle on winter roads – although sometimes having the traction of 4 wheels moving can help, the tyres are the only part of the vehicle that is making contact with the road surface. Winter tyres are designed to be able to handle lower temperatures thanks to their compound makeup and design featuring sipes to grip onto snow and ice to create the traction needed to grip the road surface. 





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