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How to drive in icy conditions

Driving safely on icy roads

There’s a good reason why ice skating and ice hockey are so popular – it’s great fun to glide across ice at speed. But it’s not so fun when you’re in a car and the road is covered in ice.

There are many similarities between driving in snow and driving in ice. For example, in both situations you need to drive slowly and calmly, avoiding any sudden acceleration or braking. However, there are some additional considerations when you think about learning how to drive in icy conditions.

General precautions


The first consideration is whether you need to go out by car at all. Icy roads can be extremely treacherous, so we advise you to question whether the journey is really worth the financial and emotional cost of a potential accident.

Listen to the radio. Weather forecasters will often tell you if there are specific danger zones and this may help you decide whether or not to venture out.

You may already be on the road and are unsure whether ice is going to be a problem.

One of the major differences between snow and ice is that snow is easy to spot. Black ice, on the other hand, blends so well into the colouring of the road you often don’t know it’s there until it’s too late. It’s a good idea to use your car thermometer as a guide. If it registers the air’s ambient temperature as being close to freezing, you need to be extra careful. 

Another way of detecting ice is to watch the other drivers around you. If you spot them sliding, or you notice cars that have veered off the road, you have probably driven into an icy area.

If you find yourself in a situation that makes you nervous, pull over and either wait for the temperatures to rise or find an alternative mode of transport.

How to drive in icy conditions

  • Keep an eye on ambient temperature so you are prepared for icy conditions
  • Keep an eye on other drivers to see if they are being affected by ice
  • Listen to weather forecasts and avoid areas of concern
  • Drive slowly and carefully
  • Extend the distance between you and the car in front
  • If you do skid, steer in the same direction as the rear of your car is moving.


Uniroyal - Cars leave their mark in Snow

Driving tips

If you do decide to drive, here are some driving tips to help you get safely from A to B.

When driving in icy conditions, you need to leave as much space as possible between you and the car in front. This could be up to ten times more than you would when driving on dry roads. So, if it normally takes you 23 metres to stop when driving on a normal sunny day at 30mph, it would take at least 230 metres to stop at the same speed on ice.

If you do hit a patch of ice, and find yourself skidding, steer in the same direction as the rear of your car is sliding. If the rear of your car is sliding in the same direction as your right shoulder, turn your steering wheel to the right. If the rear is sliding in the same direction as your left shoulder, steer to the left. Never take your hands off the steering wheel and don’t stamp your foot on the brake as this could cause your wheels to lock up.

Icy conditions can be accompanied by hail storms. These can limit your visibility so, if safe to do so, it’s a good idea to pull off the road, ideally stopping somewhere that’s covered, such as under a bridge. Direct your car towards the hail, so your windscreen withstands the majority of the force and not your side or rear windows. Your windscreen is capable of protecting you more than other windows. Wait for the hail to pass before setting off again.

It’s always a good idea to carry a charged mobile phone with you so you can notify people if you’ve broken down.

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