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Driving in snow is difficult for many people and can be potentially very dangerous. In very bad and severe weather conditions authorities will often advise individuals to avoid driving entirely, unless for essential travel. Express.co.uk has compiled a guide to help you drive in the snow, particularly advising you if you should use a high or low gear.
Before you drive
Preparation for journeys in the snow is a crucial part of driving safely in severe weather conditions.
You are advised to allow extra time for journeys, as well as enabling you to have more time to de-ice your vehicle and more time to travel to your destination.
You should try to stick to major roads which are likely to have been cleared and salt put on the roads.
Drivers are advised to wear warm clothes and comfortable driving shoes.
In addition, you should take time to check your wipers, tyres and screenwash before you set off.
You should also pack essentials for the worst-case eventuality, such as getting stuck in the snow.
The most important thing to take with you before driving in snow is a charged mobile phone with the phone number of your breakdown provider stored in it so you can always call for help according to the RAC.
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How to drive in snow – should you use high or low gears?
When driving in snowy conditions, you should take care to wear comfortable and dry clothing and footwear.
Before setting off, you should take care to clear all snow and ice from your windscreen, windows and the roof of the car before driving off.
You should avoid using water to de-ice windscreens as it can cause the glass to crack and the water may freeze again.
When pulling away, you should use second gear and lift the clutch very carefully to avoid any wheel spin.
You should endeavour to stay in a higher gear as it will give drivers more control as they pick up speed.
When accelerating, you should be sure to do so gently and use low revs, changing up to a higher gear at the earliest opportunity.
When going downhill, you should be sure to stay in a low gear and avoid braking unless necessary.
Automatic cars typically have a snow mode which enables easier driving in severe weather.
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Another essential rule for driving in snow is to maintain a safe stopping distance between you and the car in front.
In snowy conditions, this should be as much as 10 times the normal recommended gap.
When approaching a bend, you should brake before you actually start to turn the steering wheel.
For situations when your car loses grip, it is important to try not to panic and instead, take your foot off the accelerator and make sure that your wheels are pointing in the direction you want to go in.
In cases of skids, steer gently into them and do not take your hands off the steering wheel or stamp on the brakes.
When driving in heavy snow, you should use dipped headlights.
If visibility falls below a 100m distance, you should use your fog lights, but remember to turn them off if visibility improves.
During the daylight hours, glare from the white snow can make driving difficult and therefore you should endeavour to wear sunglasses to reduce the glare from low winter sun on the snow.
For those in areas where there is significant snow and driving cannot be avoided, snow chains may be required.
Snow chains must only be used on a layer of compacted snow and should be removed once you reach a clear section of road.
If you use them outside of these instances, you risk damaging your car.
What to do if you get stuck in the snow
If you get stuck in the snow, you should not panic.
Those driving in snow are advised to pack an emergency pack in case you are stuck in the snow.
The pack should include the following: a demisting pad, torch, a hi-vis vest, a blanket, some food, a drink, spare screenwash, de-icer, ice scraper, blanket, shovel, phone charger, map, a first aid kit, a warning triangle, some jump leads, a spade and a square of carpet which can be used to enable you to get under your wheels if you are stuck in the snow.
If you are stuck in the snow, you should move your wheels from side to side to move the snow out of the way or use a shovel to move the snow.
You can use sand, gravel or cat litter in a bid to get traction.
If you cannot move your car, you can stay warm by running the engine, but it is vital to avoid blocking the exhaust pipe as highly toxic carbon monoxide gas could enter the car.
Do not run the engine for more than 10 or 15 minutes each hour to avoid risking fumes.
You should call for help from your breakdown provider in cases when you cannot move your vehicle.
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