How to drive safely while travelling on the road at Christmas

- Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but it also brings changing weather conditions and busier roads. It’s important to take extra precautions while driving to visit far-flung family and friends.

Driving in snow or ice, torrential rain, wind and fog can present a range of challenges for both drivers and a car’s mechanics. In addition to this, the shorter day and darker evenings can make regular travel plans particularly hazardous. So, before setting out on a long journey, make sure you are prepared in case the weather takes a turn for the worst by following these tips to stay safe on the road this Christmas.

General Christmas driving advice

The Christmas period can involve lots of eating, drinking and late nights. So if you didn’t manage to catch a good night’s sleep and feel fatigued, it’s best to avoid driving if you can. It’s essential to get a suitable amount of rest before taking on winter roads, as this reduces driving risks.

Make sure your tyres are in good condition and properly inflated, with a tread depth of at least 3mm for safety in wet weather. These are one of the most important items to keep an eye on if you know you will be tackling snowy or icy roads. Winter tyres are mandatory in some – but not all – European countries, so they’re worth investing in if you’ll be travelling across the continent. Modern, studless winter tyres have increased flexibility in freezing temperatures which allows them to maintain a greater grip in icy conditions.

Long-distance driving

Ahead of a long-distance journey, you should monitor weather forecasts and travel updates for a few days in advance. Major routes are more likely to be gritted than minor roads or isolated areas, so it’s best to delay trips when bad weather is expected. Allow extra time for your trip due to increased traffic, which in turn will be travelling at slower speeds than usual.

Before embarking on a long trip, you should make sure your car’s exhaust pipe is clear and not clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.

Ahead of a long journey, you should make sure your car's exhaust pipe is clear and not clogged with snow, ice and mud

Driving in the snow

When driving in snowy conditions, you should accelerate and decelerate slowly. To regain traction and avoid skidding, you should step on the pedal gently while accelerating away and not try to do it too quickly. As well as this, make sure to take time to slow down at traffic lights.

Drive slowly on snow-covered roads so that you give yourself time to manoeuvre. In snowy or icy conditions, you should brake before you start turning the steering wheel when approaching a bend. If your car does lose grip, you should take your foot off the accelerator and keep your wheels pointing in the direction you want to go. The safest way to pull to a stop is by threshold braking. You can do this by keeping your foot on the floor and using the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.

When roads are snowy and icy, refrain from powering up hills. Trying to accelerate on a snowy incline will cause your wheels to start spinning. Instead, try to stay in motion as you approach a hill, and use this to carry you to the top. As you reach the top, reduce your speed and proceed down the hill as slowly as possible.

i30 N winter testing with Hyundai Motorsport driver Thierry Neuville

Active safety features to stay safer while travelling

During the Christmas period, an increased number of cars take to the roads, as people travel up and down the country to meet with their families. Modern cars boast a range of active safety features which, alongside safe driving tips, can keep you safer while travelling in wintry conditions.

Adaptive headlights give drivers increased visibility on dark and curved roads. While the standard lights continue to shine forwards while a car negotiates a bend, adaptive headlights alter their beams according to the movements to the steering wheel.

Heavy ice, snow and rain can lead to hazardous road conditions, and Vehicle Stability Management keeps the car stable when accelerating or braking on wet or slippery road surfaces. In addition to this, Electronic Stability Control uses wheel sensors to detect the beginning of a slide and automatically applies small amounts of braking force to keep the car steady.