Here we go again…

Keith Adams 

Frozen Britain from space
Frozen Britain from space

Well, the first flakes of snow are falling in the UK and we’re already preparing for the worst. It’s always interesting to see just how much of a regional variation there is in how us Brits deal with the fluffy white stuff. The Scots and the Welsh tend to roll up their sleeves and get on with it, as do us Northerners. 

However, once the stuff starts settling south of Watford Gap, all hell seems to break loose – the world comes to a halt and Peston comes on to BBC News telling us that financial meltdown is bound to follow because a bunch of City Bankers can’t get into work for the day. 

Of course, I jest. 

Mind you, I do have a few memories from last year’s snow flurries that will stay with me for a very long time. As some of you might know, I ran a 1.4-litre Rover Metro diesel and, while it was a little shabby to look at, it was mechanically sound and rode on good tyres. As a result, at no point did it even threaten to struggle in the snow. 

There was one sweet moment when I was climbing out of Corby on a very slight incline (maybe 1 in 50), when I saw an Audi A3 stuck at 45 degrees across the road with several people putting their backs into pushing it back into action, while the driver sat inside flooring the throttle – no doubt wondering why the wheels weren’t doing anything. Traction control? You betcha. 

Two more tales: the Corsa stuck in a side road attempting to enter a main road of queuing traffic – driver flooring the throttle, wheels spinning pathetically, car not going anywhere and my neighbour in his Astra – flooring the throttle, bouncing off the limiter, not going anywhere. The same old story. He only got moving when a few of us started digging out the car. Why he didn’t dig it out himself beforehand is anyone’s guess. 

We used to get a fair bit of winter snow where I grew up and, as soon as I had a driving licence and Mk1 Vauxhall Cavalier, I’d relish any opportunity to practice in the snow. My advice, then? Learn how a car feels. Anticipate where you can and can’t get grip – and appreciate just how much traction you have in freshly laid snow. I guess it’s harder to practice these days as roads are more crowded but, if you do have the chance to have a play, I thoroughly recommend it. 

Oh, and if you’re in the south, your life might just depend on it.

Keith Adams


  1. I love driving in the snow in old clunkers.

    Mind you, I did once get carried away in the snow on a Wellingborough industrial estate in my long gone Ital 1.7 Estate.

    I belted a kerb on full lock so hard that I tore the nearside wheel, hub and drop link out of the swivel pin – oh, such fun!

  2. It’s the end of the world again… Oh my God, snow! Shock horror!!

    We are so naff in this country. A bit of snow and it’s chaos again. The general public simply cannot cope with a simple change in the weather whereas once basic common sense and little thought and preparation would prevent a lot of problems.

    Instead, people go out and buy expensive 4x4s and think they can still just go around driving at 100 mph. They just have no idea about speed relative to conditions and car control.

    They’re the same sort of people who have absolutely no concept of basic car maintenance. Mention words like tyre pressures, tread, oil and water levels and they look at you as if your speaking another language.

  3. I live in Denmark, down a 500M gravel road. The drifts are up to three feet deep at the moment. I have, as a precautionary measure, just driven my Rover 620Ti up to the end of the lane. I did not even get stuck. What’s the secret? Good winter tyres, they make an massive difference.

    Last year, I saw an ageing Volvo 240 Estate with winter tyres pulling a 4-wheel drive Shogun out of the ditch. The Shogun had summer tyres which were no use at all. The Danish Government is seriously considering making winter tyres a legal requirement. (I’m not talking about spiked tyres which are hopeless on non-snowy roads) Mind you, last year we did have a period of snow that lasted over three months.

  4. @Darren
    I’ve noticed that it’s the 4×4 drivers who seem to be the most cautious. Do they ever go off-road? The majority probably only do so when they park on the pavement and drop the kids off outside the school!

  5. We had the first bit of snow here yesterday – though other areas of Germany are nicely covered. Coincidently, our Government also implemented a reinforced law about the use of winter tyres yesterday…

    They are indeed a very good investment – even if not legally required.

  6. Although I haven’t put it to the test yet, I’m fairly confident my 1974 Midget 1500 would cope better with the conditions than some of these modern bohemoths.

  7. I agree whole heartedly with this blog. I can’t believe some of the driving I’ve seen in the recent snow – the traffic on the main roads is the worst of all. Where I am, in Surrey, the back roads are a tad dodgy, but main roads are clear as a bell and became so pretty much instantly.

    I also agree with Keith’s advice about going out and having a play in it. I have been out in it every day for the last 2 winters. It’s not difficult to drive on snow and ice at all. Yes, you have to concentrate, but it centres around driving at a sensible pace, keeping a safe distance and being sensitive with the controls.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m 20 years old and have only been driving for 2 years, so can hardly claim to be the most experienced driver in the world, but it beggars belief how appalling some ‘experienced’ drivers’ road manners become as soon as there’s a fine dusting of the white stuff.

    I also got told off by a friend of mine for going out in it. She said to me: ‘Frankly, Rob, if you’re out driving in it you’re just silly’. I’m sorry, but that seems to be a prime example of the attitude that causes this country to grind to a halt everytime it snows.

    I managed to get to work every day and without incident in an 18 year old Rover 420 with no ABS, traction control or anything else. What excuse do experienced drivers in modern cars with traction control, ABS, airbags etc. have for not, at least, trying?

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