Throughout the winter months, it’s crucial to prioritise safety before setting off on any journey, especially when wintry road conditions can make travel challenging.
Especially since the Met Office has issued yellow weather warnings as snow is set to hit parts of the UK this January. So, understandably National Highways are emphasising the importance of planning with T.R.I.P.: top-up, rest, inspect, and prepare. Dale Hipkiss, National Network Manager at National Highways, said: “Freezing conditions bring so many hazards such as snow and ice, please take every possible step to understand your journey in advance and allow extra time when travelling.
“It is therefore always important to plan ahead for your journey, check weather forecasts, and if weather conditions do become challenging whilst travelling, adjust your driving behaviour and take extra care.”
And the T.R.I.P. isn’t just a checklist: it’s a comprehensive guide to make sure families navigate winter journeys safely and confidently. Here’s how you can make the most of each element to guarantee a safe and smooth trip wherever you’re headed this winter.
Have a safe T.R.I.P. this winter
Planning for driving is essential to ensure yours and your family’s safety, and the safety of other road users. Winter driving can be challenging due to slippery road conditions, reduced visibility, and extreme cold. Being prepared can help you stay safe.
It’s also worth remembering that you should anticipate the actions of other drivers, too, as not everyone may be as prepared for winter driving.
So, here are some safety tips to help you prepare for your journey and plan this winter:
Winter's cold bite can put a strain on vehicles. Over a third of breakdowns stem from avoidable issues like engine problems or low fuel. Before hitting the road, ensure your vehicle is ready:
Fuel and fluids: Top up your fuel tank, check oil levels, and ensure screen wash is adequate for freezing temperatures. Clean windows and lights for improved visibility.
Regular maintenance: Keep your vehicle in top condition through regular checks. Proper maintenance ensures safety during winter drives.
The charm of a winter drive can fade quickly without adequate rest stops. Factor in these breaks for a comfortable journey:
Scheduled rests: Plan breaks for at least 15 minutes every two hours, especially during long drives. Short stops not only enhance safety but also contribute to a stress-free travel experience.
Rest well before travelling: Prioritise rest to stay alert and ready for any challenges on the road.
If you’re a disabled driver or passenger, you can use this guide to find rest stops that best suit your needs.
Safety starts with a thorough vehicle inspection. Here's what to focus on:
Tyres: Well-maintained tyres are critical. Check tyre pressure and tread depth regularly, ensuring optimum traction and visibility. The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm, but most tyre and safety experts recommend a 3mm minimum. In winter, tyre pressures can decrease. So, check your tyre pressure as proper inflation helps with traction and handling, and therefore your safety on the road.
Lights: Headlights, tai lights, or brake lights not working will make it harder for you to see and be seen by others in the dark, rain and fog. Make sure all are working before setting off.
Brakes: Test your brakes to avoid sudden braking and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.
Adaptability is key when facing unpredictable winter conditions. Here's how to prepare:
Weather awareness: Stay informed about weather forecasts and road conditions. Consider postponing trips during severe conditions.
Personal safety: If you’re heading out on two wheels in the dark, make sure you’re visible with reflective clothing and light colours.
Reduce speed: Reducing speed and increasing your distance from the vehicle in front will give you more time to react to changing road conditions. It’s also advised to keep a safe distance from snow ploughs and gritters.
Remove snow and ice: Before leaving, make sure you remove all snow and ice from all windows, mirrors, lights, and the roof of your vehicle for better visibility - and to prevent flying debris.
Black ice: Be cautious of black ice, especially on bridges, overpasses, and shaded areas.
And last but not least - pack a winter emergency kit with essentials like extra warm clothing, non-perishable food, water, a flashlight, and a shovel.
About National Highways
National Highways is the wholly government-owned company responsible for modernising, maintaining and operating England’s motorways and major A roads.
Real-time traffic information for England’s motorways and major A roads is available via the Traffic England website, local and national radio travel bulletins, electronic road signs and mobile apps. Local social media services are also available.
About the author
Rebecca Roberts is a writer, editor, and content marketing expert hailing from Leeds. Here at Mumsnet, she brings parents content designed to make life easier. As a mum-of-two, she knows all too well the juggling that winter can bring when you’re trying to squeeze in seeing family. And since she lives on a farm, she also knows just how important it is to be extra cautious when driving in adverse weather like snow, rain, sleet and the dark.
Beyond her role as an editor here at Mumsnet, Rebecca can be found balancing life as a working mum of two toddlers and when she’s not at her desk, you’ll likely find her at a local playgroup, in a nearby coffee shop, or walking the dog.