SNOW, strong winds, snow drifts and freezing rain can play havoc with the UK’s road network, particularly in January and February. Met Office warnings of routes blocked by deep snow can appear suddenly, with unsuspecting drivers and passengers caught out and stuck in their stranded vehicles.
It’s important drivers who do venture out onto the roads are fully prepared for the worst-case scenario. Knowing how to act safely in such situations is key to ensuring the severe winter snap doesn’t end in disaster.
Follow these steps to stay safe during what the tabloids have taken to calling “snowpocalypses”.
What should you do before travelling?
If you’re driving any further than a walk from home, you need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario: getting stuck in snow in freezing temperatures. So pack an emergency kit including warm clothes, emergency food, a warm drink, a shovel, and jump leads. You can find details in our guide on how to drive in snow and ice.
Also look into snow socks for your tyres, which may allow you to get to get unstuck. You can find winter essentials like this at Halfords by clicking here. Put that lot in the boot.
Also check the condition of the car’s spare wheel and tyre and ensure you have all the tools to change a wheel, as well as a reflective warning triangle.
Also, let friends or family know when and where you are travelling. If you end up stuck down a deserted country lane, and you forgot to charge your phone and pack a charge lead (see above) it will help if people know where to start searching for you.
What should you do if you get stuck in snow?
1. Switch on the car’s hazard warning lights.
Make sure others can see your car and won’t crash into it.
2. Put on the warm clothing, sturdy boots and high-visibility vest
Keeping warm is a priority.
3. Find the reflective warning triangle
Place it a good distance behind the car, so that traffic approaching on the same side of the road has notice of a hazard ahead.
4. Call for help
Work out where you are and call for help. Your sat nav or phone can give you your location, and friends or family can rally assistance. If you are a member of a breakdown service, call for recovery. If you aren’t, you can pay to join immediately. Bear in mind there will be delays during such extreme winter weather. If you’re unsure of your exact location, the What3Words website and app can pinpoint you to the nearest few metres.
5. Check to see if anyone is nearby
Could a Good Samaritan with a 4×4 help tow you free from the snow? Or are others able to help push your car to a place of safety, so it’s not a danger to other road users? Don’t be shy; ask for help.
6. Don’t leave your car if it still runs
If it has fuel and can start, you will be able to remain inside, sheltered from the winter weather and can run the engine from time to time, using the heater to warm the cabin. If you’re out of fuel, then it is still a decent shelter from the icy wind and wet snow but keeping warm will be much harder. A nearby house might provide refuge instead but don’t start wandering around if you’re lost and a long way from civilisation.
A note on electric cars:
We’re big fans of electric cars at Driving.co.uk but in this situation, your vehicle’s power may run out quite a bit quicker than if you were driving a petrol and diesel car. This is partly because those liquid fuels are highly energy-dense (petrol is about 100 times more energy dense than lithium-ion, for the same volume), meaning an engine can run on tickover providing heat for a long time.
And the internal combustion engine’s big disadvantage over electric motors — namely energy loss through heat — is of course an advantage when heating the interior of a car, as some of that heat is simply redirected into the cabin. An electric car, on the other hand, has no heat source other than the air conditioning system itself.
Some EVs, like the latest Renault Zoe, make use of heat-pump air conditioning systems, as found in motorhomes, which require less energy; a big advantage if you get stuck in a remote location in the snow, allowing you to stay warmer for longer.
However, the point is that electric car drivers should be extra vigilant when venturing out in treacherously snowy conditions.
7. What if you get stuck in snow and have to sleep in the car?
The most important thing is to stay warm and hydrated. Consume your drink and snacks slowly, and run the engine and heater when needed, keeping an eye on the fuel level.
8. Remember to lock the doors when asleep in your car
For your own safety, keep the doors locked while you get some rest.
– If you enjoyed this guide about what to do when stuck in snow, you should read about how to drive on snow and ice, which includes a full list or rules and things to pack in the car.
– If you’re planning a trip to the Alps in your car, here’s what you need to know about driving in Europe after Brexit.
– Also, check out this near-miss of a bus that lost grip on ice.