Tips on Winter Driving

Winter brings colder temperatures, and it also brings different driving conditions for us to navigate. During winter months, you’re more likely to encounter icy, wet or snowbound roads while driving.

Here’s some tips for safe driving in winter conditions.

Before You Set Out

The same rule applies as for any journey you take on the road, be prepared! However, when it comes to winter driving, there is more things to consider.

First up, check the weather and road conditions for your route. Monitor the weather before you leave, paying particular attention to any areas that are due to have snow, rainfall or hail, as then you can plan accordingly.  Driving in the middle of the day or in daylight hours is preferrable as there is greater visibility and ice and snow are less likely to be on the road. And also check the traffic and travel updates - always choose safety over convenience when choosing which route to take to get to your destination.

Also, it’s recommended you pack warm clothes, a survival kit, mobile phone that is charged, and a working torch and spare batteries – these will prove really useful should you get into any difficulty on your journey.   If you’re heading to the ski fields, you’ll need to pack your snow chains as well. And of course, the obvious one that is often overlooked, keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle in case you get diverted onto another route.

Key Driving Tips

The following are key safety tips for driving during winter months:

  • Drive with your lights dipped when travelling in fog, rain or snow for increased safety
  • Drive slower than you normally would and allow a greater safe travelling distance (double the two-second rule) as it only takes a split second to lose control in wet or icing conditions
  • Avoid sudden braking or turning movements (brake gently)
  • Be mindful of the road conditions as shaded areas or bridges can stay slippery for longer
  • Be alert to all vehicles on the road. Often during winter, there is more maintenance vehicles on the road as winter conditions tend to bring more closures and changeable conditions
  • Share the driving where you can and allow for rest stops every two hours

Black Ice

Black ice is particularly dangerous over winter and can cause drivers to lose control.  Black ice is a thin sheet of ice on the road that is dark in appearance making it extremely hard for drivers to see.  It’s often found by waterways, lakes and shady, cooler areas. You need to be mindful of this and follow the safe driving tips above, to avoid losing control.

If Things Go Wrong

Unfortunately, sometimes things do go wrong on the road.

See advice from Waka Kotahi below, on what you should do if things go wrong:

  • In the event of an emergency, dial 111.
  • For mechanical breakdowns, contact your breakdown service provider.
  • If you want to report or check current road conditions on the state highway
  • If you do get stuck, stay with the vehicle and keep everyone warm until help arrives.
  • If you are involved in a crash, tell the police even if no one is injured. This type of information helps us to make improvements to the road where necessary.