A Lancia Delta Integrale in the snow
Caffeine&Machine cultofmachine Editor at Large Snow way to drive

Snow way to drive

December 2022 brought some savagely cold weather to the UK, and with it the usual travel chaos. Why is it that drivers in this country are so ill-equipped to deal with snow and ice?

In case you didn’t notice, things got a bit cold in Britain at the end of 2022. Very cold, in fact. Cold enough to highlight the utter chaos that unfolds on our roads every time the weather turns properly wintery.

Most of the time, it’s fine. The roads stay salty and wet, there’s less daylight, and cars accumulate a thick coating of brown grime, but as long as people drive sensibly there are no real issues. The deluge of snow and constant sub-zero temperatures we experienced last week, though, was different.

It’s hard not to notice the way that driving standards slip when things get snowy and icy. Some of this is understandable, and entirely admirable – if the roads are covered in snow or ice, then you absolutely should be taking things very slowly and gently.

On ploughed, gritted roads, though? You probably don’t need to halve the usual speed you drive at. There are parts of the world where every day in winter is sub-zero and snowbound, and they seem perfectly capable of keeping going. The way some of Britain’s drivers react to the slightest sign of the white stuff is about as helpful as the way certain people panic-buy milk when there’s snow forecast – in other words, not helpful at all. There’s a tendency to either overreact and be ultra-cautious, or underreact and drive dangerously. There needs to be a middle ground.

Some of this unpreparedness is likely down to how relatively rare this weather is in most parts of Britain. The thinking seems to be: if the roads are only like that for a few days a year, why bother taking all the necessary steps to prepare for it?

As December 2022 demonstrated, though, winter can hit with a vengeance, and we can’t just allow the country to grind to a halt when it does. Maybe there needs to be some legislation, or some mandatory education in the driving theory test (to be honest, there’s plenty that this could apply to – driving on motorways, anyone?). Germany and Italy, for instance, require winter tyres to be fitted in snowy conditions, and while they’re both countries with plenty of Alpine terrain, proper rubber can still be a huge help in cold, wet weather.

Basically, it’s a case of assessing the conditions of the road, and of your car, and making sensible, level-headed decisions. Don’t endanger yourself or others, but don’t become a frustration either. And please, don’t panic-buy milk.

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