By Kieran Hanley
Driving in hail or snow can be one of the most challenging parts of travelling in wintry conditions.
If you do need to make essential journeys in adverse weather conditions, you can make your journey safer by following these tips.
Safety on the road starts before you even begin your journey. If there has been hail or snowfall, make sure to clean your windows and mirrors fully to ensure you have proper vision. Don’t forget to clear your roof too; snow or hail build up could slide down onto the windscreen as you drive and block your vision, or slide off and cause a hazard to another road user. (To avoid accidentally damaging your car, check out our guides on the “Do”s and “Don’t”s of defrosting here). You should also make sure your tyres are fit for purpose, as you rely on them to grip to the road in slippery conditions. Also plan your journey in advance, check the weather forecasts for your area, and be aware of the worst affected routes that may be an issue on your commute. Consider routes that keep you to main roads, as they’re more likely to have been gritted than secondary or local roads.
Listen out for AA Roadwatch updates
We can help you plan your route, as we’ll mention the worst affected areas during our bulletins. We’ll also mention any weather warnings that might affect your journey, and offer advice on how to drive safely in these conditions.
You can also find our latest updates over on the AA Roadwatch Newsroom.
Expect the unexpected
Hail in particular can come quickly and often only affects small areas. You may be driving in perfectly good conditions and suddenly find yourself in a heavy hail shower, which may catch you off-guard. Keep in mind that if roads are gritted, this doesn’t always protect you against skidding during or after a hail shower. A gritted road that is covered in hail stones can still create a slippery surface. Remember to be extra cautious on secondary or local roads which may have more shaded areas which means snow and hail can linger for longer, and will often have more bends than major routes. Brake progressively (but not harshly) on straight roads before you reach a bend. Having slowed down, steer smoothly round the bend and avoid any harsh manoeuvres.
Slow down and be extra cautious
You’ll often hear us advising road users to slow down during our reports if there are adverse weather conditions, and there’s good reason for it! Slowing down is one of the most important things you can do in any hazardous weather conditions, including hail and snow. Not only does it reduce the risk of skidding but driving slowly in a high gear will help your tyres maintain grip. However, change to a low gear for downhill stretches of road. Avoid sudden braking or harsh manoeuvres, though, as this will increase your risk of skidding. Visibility can also be massively affected during a hail or snow shower. Make sure to use your windscreen wipers and be aware that road markings may be obscured by hail or snow that sticks to the road. Also, remember to use your dipped headlights to ensure that you can see and that other road users can also see you.
Watch out for vulnerable road users
In wintry conditions, keep an eye out for others on the roads, especially pedestrians and cyclists. They may need to alter their course too to avoid snow or icy patches on the paths or at the side of the road.
By Kieran Hanley