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Is it more dangerous to drive in sleet or snow?


Most people are wary of driving in bad weather. It’s reasonable to think it is dangerous to drive in sleet or snow, since visibility will be worse than usual. You will also have the danger associated with frozen road surfaces and the potential for lying snow to disrupt your journey and interfere with your vehicle’s grip on the road.

But even if it’s not snowing, you’ll still encounter challenges driving when snow is lying on the ground. It can take up to 10 times longer to stop in the snow, so keep your distance from the vehicle in front and pull back if someone overtakes you and goes into the gap. Always give yourself plenty of extra time if you do have to drive in the snow, and remember not everyone takes extra care.

The difference between travelling at 30mph and 35mph is more pronounced than you’d think when it comes to stopping distances. The higher speed means you need an additional 21 feet in which to stop, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Multiply that by 10, as mentioned above, and you’ll need an additional 210 feet in which to stop given the speed you are going. It’s quite frightening to realise it’s very dangerous to drive in sleet or snow if you don’t fully understand the importance of winter stopping distances.


Be alert to other drivers and people around you

Some people insist on driving at the same speed and assuming they can brake quickly and easily – but we know this is not the case. It’s always more dangerous to drive in sleet or snow, and bearing this in mind means you can stay safer when you do need to go out.

A recent survey conducted by Brake revealed 71% of drivers didn’t know the correct stopping distances recommended in winter conditions such as snow and ice. Ice on the roads means cars and other vehicles take much longer to stop too, and remember, you cannot always see black ice. That’s why it is so dangerous to drive in sleet or snow. The air temperature must be below two degrees Celsius to snow, so it doesn’t even have to reach freezing for this to occur. Bear that in mind if you’re going out on a cloudy, cold day or night and there is a chance moisture will fall in one way or another. A temperature slightly above two degrees Celsius will mean sleet has a chance to fall.


Reduced visibility

One of the reasons it can be dangerous to drive in sleet or snow is that your visibility will be reduced. Snow tends to reduce it more, because the flakes can be quite big and there can be a lot of them. You should put your wipers on fast enough to clear the screen so you can see as best you can, and reduce your speed accordingly to adjust to the conditions. However, even a heavy bout of sleet can be dangerous, as this too can lead to reduced visibility. It can also lay on the roads and make them slippery, even though it shouldn’t be cold enough to freeze.

The Department of Transport always recommends you carry a winter emergency kit with you. This should contain 11 essential items as listed below:

  • An ice scraper
  • A can of de-icer
  • A torch with fresh batteries (check it works before you set out, especially if it hasn’t been used in a while)
  • Warm clothes to change into if needed
  • A large blanket
  • A pair of wellies
  • A first-aid kit (again, check it has everything you might need; it’s easy to dip into it occasionally and then find you don’t have the essentials when you need them most)
  • A snow shovel
  • Jump leads
  • Food (think of bars and other items with a long expiry date, so you can keep them in the car for a while)
  • A flask of hot tea or coffee

These could save your life, so don’t leave home in the winter without them. We now know it is dangerous to drive in sleet or snow, so even if you are only planning a short journey, make sure you pop your winter emergency kit in the car with you.


Which is more dangerous when driving, sleet or snow?

We’ve seen how both forms of precipitation can lead to unique challenges for drivers. Both present dangers, but a lot depends on whether the sleet or snow is falling when you are driving. Sleet can present the bigger danger at times, because it can contribute to black ice you cannot see. So, be alert for this hazard if you are driving through sleet, but also, be aware it is dangerous to drive in sleet or snow, and take appropriate precautions to stay as safe as you can. If need be, pull over and wait until the worst of the weather has passed before setting off again.


Have you been injured in a car accident that you didn’t cause?

Even if you do everything right when you’re driving in sleet or snow, there’s no accounting for what other people might do. If you’re involved in an accident and the other driver was at fault, or you think they may have been, you could be able to claim compensation.

To find out whether Accident Advice Helpline’s expert personal injury solicitors can help, call 0800 689 5659 today. We can provide over 16 years’ experience, no-obligation advice and the chance to see whether a compensation award could be yours. You may know first hand that it’s dangerous to drive in sleet or snow, so find out if you can receive an award today because of the way someone else acted. Negligence can lead to accidents, and if you’ve been involved and injured in one, there’s no better action to take than to call us now for expert and informed advice.