It pays to be prepared. Prior to hitting the road you should anticipate that conditions might be icy and slippery. Even with day temperatures staying well above freezing point the ground may still freeze over in the early morning hours or at night. Bridges, overpasses and isolated roads are particularly susceptible. Enough fuel, keep windshield fluid and possibly also a blanket in the car.
2. Driving with headlights off
For safety reasons you should keep your headlights turned on all day in winter. This will make other road users aware of your presence and at the same time will allow you to judge distances more accurately. As a rule parking lights will suffice, yet it is advisable to also keep your headlight low beams turned on. Rear fog lights should only be switched on in very foggy conditions (visibility under 50 meters), to avoid disturbing other road users.
3. Too little following distance
When roads are wet, covered in leaves or with temperatures dropping below 5 degrees Celsius it is especially dangerous to leave too little following distance between you and the car in front. The reason is a much longer braking distance than under perfect conditions. Defensive driving is required.
4. No winter tyres
During the winter months, poor or inadequate tyres will make your car much more difficult to handle. Winter tyres are an absolute must. In some European countries the wrong tyres can limit your insurance coverage. If you frequently drive on snowy surfaces, consider purchasing a set of snow chains or spike tyres in countries where their use is permitted.
5. Accelerating in corners
Stepping on the gas too quickly can easily lead to unpleasant surprises on iffy roads. Accelerating too quickly when coming out of a slippery curve may cause a spin. This is particularly risky with rear-drive cars. To safely reach your destiny, make sure to always accelerate gently and turn slowly.
6. Poor visibility
Windscreens are particularly prone to getting dirty fast in the winter months, with slush, salt, ice or moisture sticking to the glass surface. The setting sun or lights of oncoming vehicles will decrease your visibility even more. Always clean your windshield before hitting the road.
7. Too many short drives
Although short-distance drives are rarely a problem for modern engines, too many cold starts still take their toll. Using your car exclusively for short drives on cold days not only puts a heavy burden on your engine but will also sap battery power. During the winter months it is therefore a good idea to now and again drive long enough to really warm up the engine.