What Should You Do When Driving in Snowy Conditions?

6th February, 2023, in Car Hire Help, Travel Advice & Guides

Driving in snowy conditions can be dangerous no matter how much snow has fallen. Serious accidents can occur without the correct preparation or understanding of how severe the conditions are. In many cases, where snow is falling, you should consider refraining from driving where possible. Although sometimes this is not possible.

Depending on where you are in the world could also mean that should you drive, you may only be able to if your car is fitted with certain tyres and other breakdown essentials.

In most cases, a hire car company will provide you with what you need to meet the legal requirements of the country you are visiting; however, you should always check in advance in case any items are your responsibility to provide.

Before setting out, you should make yourself aware of the conditions both as they are and how they are forecast to be during your journey, if after this you have determined that the journey is still important enough, and that the conditions are manageable, you should follow the steps below.

What should you do before driving in snowy weather?

The most important aspect is to plan. Assess the route options in advance of your journey and check the weather forecasts. Some areas may be enduring harsher conditions than others. Once you have found a route that may provide you with the safest journey, factor in the additional time that it may take. Icy and snowy roads are hazards so travelling at slower speeds than normal is likely.

Furthermore, the prep before you leave could take longer than expected too. Clearing windows, lights and mirrors of snow or ice can add on quite a lot of time. Once you have cleared the visual elements of your car, you should also investigate whether other parts are fit for a snowy journey.

Check your tyres for their tread, in some countries, you will only be able to drive in winter tyres and in others, snow chains are also a requirement. Check your screen wash too, some are not made to handle cold weather and then could render your wipers useless should you need to use them during your journey. Invest in a screen wash that can handle temperatures of up to -35 ideally. Then look at the wipers themselves, look at their condition and whether they are working. Before your last check, also make sure you have sufficient fuel for the journey. Finally check the lights. Snow can severely hinder vision so you will need a suitable standard of lighting to be on the road.

Packing well for driving in snowy weather

Even though the car is checked over, you should also make sure you are fully prepared for all eventualities. A torch, hi-vis jacket(s), blankets, ice scraper, de-icer, a warning triangle, and a phone charger can all be vital should you find yourself stuck or broken down in snowy weather. Our guide to breakdowns will show what else you should consider.

Driving in snowy conditions

Now that your car is checked over and you have a sufficient supply of vital accessories, you should be ready to start your journey. Just follow the steps below and you should be able to get from A-2-B safely and easily.

  • Wear dry footwear, and potentially pack a second pair of shoes just in case the first gets wet and slippery at a rest stop.
  • Only accelerate gently, use low revs and change to a higher gear as quickly as possible.
  • Avoid wheelspin as you move off by using second gear.
  • When going downhill, use a low gear and avoid applying the brakes unless necessary.
  • Always leave sufficient space between drivers in front and behind you. As much as 10 times the normal recommended gap will be needed in certain conditions.
  • As you approach any bends, apply the brakes before turning the wheel. You could find that your car skids a little, if this is the case, take your foot off the accelerator and ensure the wheels are pointing in the direction you want to be heading.
  • Use dipped headlights in heavy snow but apply fog lights if visibility drops to less than 100 meters.
  • If you start to skid, steer into it gently, do not take your hands off the wheel or slam on the brakes.
  • Be aware of black ice or areas where the sun hasn’t begun to melt away any of the ice or snow. You could find that some areas are clear but within a very short distance become dangerous again. Therefore, be careful at all times and keep an eye on the conditions as they change.
  • Make all uses of brakes, accelerator and steering smooth and slow. Sudden aggressive use of any could result in an accident.


When driving, whether in the UK or abroad, you should always put the safety of yourself and your passengers first.  Accidents in snow are common and can often be severe. Luckily the safety features of many vehicles mean that the outcome can often only see the car damaged and not those within it. Insurance can help cover this damage but when hiring a car, you may need comprehensive car hire excess insurance to make sure you aren’t out of pocket. Car hire excess cover means that many of the things you are not covered for on standard car insurance will be when you secure an excess policy. At Direct Car Hire Excess, we can keep you covered, making sure your drive in the snow can is less stressful. Contact us today and get a free quote.


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