Winter driving

Translated by Genoveva Geppaart and Alda Ntezilizaza


For international people that originate from countries in which driving in snow is not the norm, ACCESS has translated an ANWB guide to winter driving. Read on for the top 10 winter tips and other advice for a safer drive.


The climate goes through changes. There is nothing more unpredictable than the climate. You encounter slippery roads and unexpected situations on your way. This, as a vehicle driver, demands greater awareness to be able to adjust your driving style. In cooperation with ANWB/Fonds Slachtofferhulp, we offer a few useful tips for increased awareness and safer driving.

Winter driving-snowflake


You won't encounter many snowy hills in the Netherlands but even so the lowland roads can get slippery in the winter. Hence this is the symbol to look out for when changing your summer tyres to winter tyres.


10 winter tips for a safer drive

1 - Frozen door/window seals and locks

To avoid frozen rubber seals on your doors and windows, use silicone spray. Or talcum powder is a cheap alternative that works just as well. If your door lock is frozen, use a lock de-icer.


2 - Avoid short rides

During short rides, there is condensation on the car which can freeze if the outisde temperature is below zero. Short rides can lead to a frozen gearbox and ventilation system, which can in turn cause oil leaks. Short rides can also adversely affect the quality of the engine oil and cause it to thicken which can lead to defective oil pumps.


3 - Wash regularly

Salt not only makes your windows dirty thereby reducing your road vision; it also affects the chassis, the bodywork and the tyres. Therefore, you need to wash your car regularly in order to stay safe during the winter.


4 - Liquid checks for good vision

Check if there is enough windscreen wiper liquid as good vision is extremely important for winter driving. The windscreen wiper liquid contains an antifreeze element that protects your windows against frost while you’re driving.


5 - Winter tyres

It’s not safe to drive on snow with summer tyres. The braking distance is even longer, even at a low speed of 30 km/hour. With an adjustment of your speed, style of driving and distance between you and the car in front, you can drive safely on snow with winter tyres.


6 - Start the car the right way

Thinking you have to warm the engine first is a myth. On the contrary, after starting the engine you can drive because a stationary engine hardly warms up. To start a car in freezing weather, you need to turn off everything (lights, radio, GPS, heating) and then start the car. This way, you’re giving maximum battery power to the starter motor.


7 - Don’t use the handbrake

Don’t set the car on the handbrake, use the acceleration, preferably in the departure direction. If your car has an electronic parking brake, check in your handbook how to remove the automatic switch on function.


8 - Cleaning ice off your windows

When defrosting your windows, do not use hot water, otherwise your windscreen might crack. Use an ice scraper to remove the ice or tepid water.


9 - Don’t turn on the windscreen wipers if…

Don’t turn on the windscreen wipers if they’re frozen, and don’t lower the electric windows. The drive engine may burn out and cause damage. Place a piece of cardboard or tin foil between the windscreen wipers and the windows in order to prevent freezing. A cork under the windscreen wiper can also do the trick.


10 - Blanket and safety vest in the car

Always take a blanket with you in the car in case you have car troubles on the way. Check if you have a breakdown triangle in the car and make sure there’s a safety vest for each seat.


Check the following

* Check that your battery is in good condition and has enough capacity to make the engine start under wintery conditions.

* Regularly check your windscreen wiper liquid and add an antifreezeproduct.

* Keep an ice scraper and a de-icerspray in your car, so that you always have them at hand.

* Condensation on the windows disappears quickly when you turn on the air conditioning. Dirty windows are quickly affected by condensation. Therefore, you need to regularly clean your windows from the inside.

* Check the pressure and tread depth of your tyres: for your own safety, three to four millimetres is the minimum in winter.


Winter driving etiquette

Adjust your speed

On a wet road, the braking distance is twice as long as on a dry road; four times as long on a snow covered road, and even eight metres times as long on a frozen road.

Here’s an indication: the braking distance on a dry road-surface with a velocity of 50 km/hour is 21 metres. This is based on 7 metres braking distance plus 14 metres braking distance with a reaction time of 1 second!

Therefore, the most important thing is to react smoothly. You want to avoid quick acceleration, hard braking and high speeds. Accelerate gently and change gear as fast as possible to a higher gear in order to decrease the slip risk. Use the clutch in small doses, in order to avoid sliding. If it happens anyway, look for a safe corner into which you can steer your vehicle. The direction of your view will also determine the direction of your vehicle.


Look straight ahead and watch that bend!

Always look straight ahead and use moderate speed, in order to avoid a lot of trouble. So if there is a sharp bend on the left, use the side window to prepare for the situation that you will see after the bend. At an exit, look carefully to the end of the exit as far as you can see. On viaducts, flyovers and bridges, look as far as possible ahead of the car in front of you. If you consciously practice a few times, you’ll notice it becomes instinctive. 


Never let go of the wheel!

Hold the wheel firmly at “a quarter to three” position; lay your thumbs on the wheel right over the horizontal spoke. You can make a half stroke without letting the wheel go. This is practical for most bends. For a sharper bend or if you must steer fast, you can cross your hands temporarily, the hands must grip the top of the wheel but never let go off the wheel.


Your view determines your direction!

If a crash seems inevitable, try to avoid the obstacle during the emergency stop. Focus all your attention on the way along the obstacle. Do not fix your eyes on the traffic jam or tree that is quickly heading straight at you, otherwise you will certainly hit it! Just look for an opening in order to avoid the obstacle.


Car breaks down? Now what? 

Cars with rear wheel drive break down at the back if driven too quickly into a bend. When this happens, you must release the clutch and steer sharply in the opposite direction.

Look where you want to go and steer in that direction. Do that twice rather than once too sharply. If you steer too sharply into the opposite direction, the first slip will be corrected but it will be followed by a second one in the other direction. In any case, keep looking at the spot where you hope to safely come to a stop.


Stay alert, with your two hands on the wheel!  

Only with bent arms and two hands on the wheel can you stay sharp, safe and drive precisely. Set your wheel and seat so that your knees are slightly bent when you completely step on the clutch pedal. If you can lay your stretched arms on top of the wheel, the back rest is in a good position.


Do you need an emergency stop?

Brake carefully! The quickest way to make an emergency stop is to use the brake pedal so that the ABS system does not switch on. When it is switched on, it is important not to let go off the brake pedal. Do not pump the pedal either. The ABS shortens the braking distance a little and makes sure the car remains drivable.


Driving too quickly into a curve?

Step on the gas!  

If a bend is taken too quickly, a car will naturally go straight. In this situation, always gently step on the accelerator (do not release the clutch!) so that the weight of the car is more on the front wheels. This way, the tyres have a better grip on the road. The sharper the bend, the lower the speed must be in order to safely drive through it. Therefore, you should adjust your speed in advance.

(Translated from 10 Wintertips en adviezen van de ANWB voor veiliger autorijden, published by Fonds Slachtofferhulp in cooperation with ANWB)

13 November 2012


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