Driving on icy roads and in Winter Weather

portrait gemma collins doyle


EHS Consultant


Some would say that this is not something we in Ireland need to worry about very often, but with the “Beast from the East” in March 2018, I’m sure you would agree that dealing with winter weather while driving is definitely an area that we need to be more prepared for! For other countries, driving in snow and ice is an annual challenge that they have been accustomed to. Although it is still challenging to drive in this type of the weather, they have done everything they can to make it as safe as possible.

At the end of the day, life must go, people need to get to work, businesses need to open and all of that. While the snow days were fun during the “Beast from the East”, many businesses lost money and employees that were needed in critical places like hospitals could not get to work. The main reasons for this were the fact that people could not travel safely.

” Dealing with winter weather while driving is definitely an area that we need to be more prepared for! ”

Driving at this time of the year can be challenging enough, without adding ice and snow into the equation! Dark evenings and mornings, flooding, high winds, fog and winter sun ensure we always have to be alert at the wheel.

So, when you find yourself driving sideways on an icy road, what are you to do? Unless you are an experienced rally driver or been trained in performance driving, you’re going to need to know the basics and not just rely on luck! Are you able to remember everything you learned when you were a provisional driver? I’m guessing not! Its safe to say, we have all been in that uncomfortable position when we are driving in these conditions, not a nice feeling of not being in control of your vehicle.

The main issue with this type of this driving is that, thankfully, we don’t have to drive on ice and snow very often, but this then means we may not have much confidence in our skills when we need them. The key is not to panic and remain calm!


Check out the simple steps below, to help keep you on the road and not in the ditch:

How to recover when you lose traction:

Regardless of the reason for losing traction on a slippery surface, the way you deal with it should always be the same. To stay on course, it is important to maintain your original path, by continuing to look at the direction that you want to go and not at the trees/cars/pedestrians or other objects that you don’t want to strike!

  • Regardless of whether you are driving a front wheel drive or a rear wheel drive, it is the same process for recovering from a skid.
  • Keep making eye contact with a safe area where you want your vehicle to go.
  • Take your foot off both the accelerator and brake pedals straightaway. Resist the urge to slam on the brakes.
  • Turn the vehicle as smoothly as you can in the direction that you want to go. Again, resist the urge to swing the wheel sharply.
  • Remember, do not slam on the brakes. Locked, sliding tires do not have any directional control.


Tips on how to drive in icy conditions and slides: 

  • Number one rule when driving in icy conditions is to move slow and brake as gently as you can.
  • Always use your defroster and windshield wipers for better visibility
  • Believe or not, the brakes are not what is going to save in the event of an accident, the accelerator pedal is! Change to a lower gear and take it slow.
  • Give as much warning as possible when you are turning, stopping or changing lanes.
  • “Be safe at all times, keep well away” – this was a mantra that my driving teacher taught me on my very first lesson! Keep an extra safe distance from the car in front when driving in this type of weather, you have no idea when or if you will hit an icy patch.
  • If you do skid on an icy patch, then turn the wheels in the direction of the skid, although it is very tempting to pull the wheel the other way!
  • Keep your speed to an absolute minimum, melting ice and snow can be extra slippy. Driving slower will ensure the tyres can push water through their groves for the best traction possible.


Tips and advice:

  • Make sure your car is properly maintained and serviced.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in icy or snowy conditions.
  • Check the weather forecast in advance.
  • Make sure you have all the safety items you need in your car – hi-visibility vest, torch, warning triangle, first aid kit.
  • Always carry some emergency food, water and a blanket in your car.


Safe journeys out there this winter!

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