Last updated: February 15, 2017 at 12:45 pm
Unlike other countries with cold climates, here in the UK we seem to come to a bit of a standstill when it snows or the temperatures drop below freezing. Trains are cancelled, roads become blocked with heavier traffic and we’re all inevitably late for work as we spend 20 minutes chipping away at the ice on our windscreens, or rooting around in the back of the wardrobe for some semblance of sturdy shoes. If there’s a good time to disperse some tips for your winter commute, it’s now.
Our helpful advice for commuting in snow and ice will be another tool in your arsenal for surviving the winter freeze. Whether you’re driving to work, walking or even cycling, we’ve got all the information you need right here so that you can get to work safely.
Recent statistics show that more than 70% of us still use cars for commuting to work. That’s a lot of people getting stuck at home when the weather starts to turn. There are a few smart things that you can do to avoid the ice and snow adding extra time to your commute, including preparing your car for these conditions, cleaning the snow and ice off properly and knowing how to drive safely on icy roads.
As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. If the weather reports are saying that there’s going to be a heavy downpour of snow or a risk of ice overnight, make sure you’re ready for it. Here’s our advice for keeping your car functional in poor weather on your winter commute:
- Place a black bin bag, old blanket or special cover over the windscreen to prevent ice from forming overnight. If you make sure to fix it securely, you will save yourself plenty of time with the ice scraper in the morning.
- Always give yourself extra time to clean off your car. If you leave in a hurry, you won’t take the necessary time to ensure that the car is fully prepared for icy and snowy conditions on the road.
- Never put hot water on the windscreen to defrost ice. The sudden change in temperature can cause the glass to crack. Be patient and use an anti-freeze spray and a good scraper instead, if you’re pressed for time.
- Although clearly the windows of your car are important, don’t forget about the other areas where snow might have gathered. Clearing snow from the roof of your car is particularly important as once you start driving it could all start melting and falling at once onto the windscreen, obscuring your view of the road.
- Keep some emergency items in the boot for when the car is snowed in. For example, you might want a small shovel, jump cables, blankets, extra water and food stowed away for emergencies.
- Always drive slowly and carefully. The following distance in ice and snow is ten seconds, as opposed to two seconds in regular conditions, so make sure you leave plenty of room between you and other cars on the road.
- Try to plan a route that sticks to main roads and avoids any lesser used and smaller roads. Main roads are more likely to be gritted in the morning before the first flow of traffic.
- If can leave the car at home, do it. Accidents are much more likely in poor conditions, so when it comes to staying safe or making it to work on time, there’s a clear duty to go for the more responsible choice. Opt for public transport just this time!
If you’re lucky enough to live within walking distance of your work, or have to walk as part of your journey, you will need to make some preparations before you leave the house in the morning. No one wants to spend the day in work with soggy, freezing cold feet and a sore bum from falling on the ice, so follow these tips for travelling in ice and snow:
- Make sure you’re decked out with appropriate clothing. Flimsy boots and a thin winter jacket are not made for battling through snow. You will need a warm, insulated jacket with waterproof protection, as well as a pair of waterproof wellies or snow boots, although we strongly recommend snow boots over Wellington boots. Add on all the warm extras too, such as thick woolly socks, a hat, gloves and scarf.
- Take an extra pair (or two) of socks with you, in case your boots fail you. This will make you much more comfortable when you do finally get to work.
- If the pavements are icy, try adding a pair of spikes or crampons to the bottom of your boots for added grip and traction on the slippery ground.
- Use hi-vis items in your overall outfit for walking back from work. Although they’re not the trendiest clothes to be wearing, the sun is still setting early at this point and hi-vis reflectors will help keep you safe.
Contrary to what you might think, when the snow hits town, you don’t have to leave your bike at home. As long as you’re careful and safe, you should be able to get to work in no time at all – while everyone else is sitting in endless traffic! Here are some handy safety tips and precautions you should take:
- It’s all about hi-vis, hi-vis, hi-vis. The mornings and evenings are darker and therefore you need to make sure that you are safe and seen. Hi-vis clothing and add-ons ensure that motorists, pedestrians and other cyclists can spot you in the distance and be aware of your bearings.
- Take extra time and care, cycling slower than usual when you are on the roads. Main roads – as we have already mentioned – will be more likely to get gritted so stick to them and be extra careful when overtaking.
- Stay away from the gutters as they will have collected lots of debris and melted iced, which can easily cause accidents.
- Adjust your tyres for the icy conditions – the more tread, the better.