Safe winter driving: Driving in the snow

3 Jul 15

We're back with some more winter driving tips to keep you safe on the road this chilly season. This time the headlights are on driving in the snow and sleet - even if you live in an area that hasn't seen a snowflake in a century, you never know, you may go on a ski holiday one day - so don't close your browser window just yet.

If you've read our tips for driving in the rain, you'll know that the key to maintaining safety on the road is to modify your speed to suit the adverse conditions in Australia's alpine regions. Even if the road has been recently cleared of snow, the surface may still be slicked with a thin layer of ice, which can affect your control. 

Finding the right car for the snow

If you live in a snowy region or you like to get to the mountains for snow season, you'll need to be driving the right car for the job. If you're looking to change your vehicle to better suit the conditions, it's a good idea to check out a CarHistory report on the vehicle you are interested in before making your final purchase decision.

A CarHistory report can not only give you an insight into the past of a used car you are interested in, it can also inform you of the car's ANCAP rating, estimate the mileage and list any previous insurance claims so you can make an informed decision. 

Bear in mind that 4X4 vehicles - which can provide better handling in challenging conditions - are exempt from fitting snow chains, but it's still recommended that every driver carries these in their boot. 

Before you drive 

It's essential that you ensure your brakes are in optimal working condition before you tackle any snowy or icy roads. Uneven or faulty brakes can cause the car to skid out of your control, which could potentially cause an accident. 

The authorities demand that chains be fitted in adverse conditions, which could mean that you will have to do so mid-journey should conditions change drastically.This is why the National Roads and Motorists Association (NRMA) recommends practising fitting chains before you intend to drive out1.

Bear in mind that 4X4 vehicles - which can provide better handling in challenging conditions - are exempt from fitting snow chains, but it's still recommended that every driver carries these in their boot.

In addition, it's important to check access to challenging roads in the winter season, as well as finding out which roads are considered "snow-ice risk sections" - you could be fined for driving through these areas without carrying snow chains between the months of June and October, according to the NRMA1

When you drive

Drive carefully, reducing speed whenever necessary. Using headlights or fog lights can illuminate your path as well as alerting other drivers to your presence in low visibility.

As with wet weather driving, increase your following distance to allow yourself more time to brake, and avoid overtaking other vehicles, advises the NSW government's Roads and Maritime Services2

1NRMA, Driving in the snow. Accessed May 29, 2015.

2Roads and Maritime Services, Cool running. Accessed May 29, 2015.