Driving in the Snow (29 Apr 2015)  Show all News

The following is an excerpt from “Driving in snow and ice conditions Vehicle Standards Information Number 57” Published on 9 June 2009 by the Roads and Maritime services NSW For full article Click Here

“General safety driving in mountainous areas can be hazardous, especially in the snow season. It is important that you fully plan your trip to and from the snow fields – ensure that you allow plenty of time for your journey, your vehicle is properly prepared and you drive to the road and ambient conditions. Observing the following will help keep you, your passengers and other road users safe:

  • Ensure you allow enough time for the trip. Weather can change quickly in mountainous areas, with a corresponding effect on the roads and travel speed. In addition, if the RTA declares a ‘snow chain day’, there can be delays in accessing snow chain bays to fit and remove chains, and the process itself can take a considerable amount of time for persons inexperienced in it.


  • The roads are typically narrow with limited scope for establishing a detour should there be a crash. So, even a minor crash can block a road for a significant period and add to your journey time.


  • You should carry a blanket and dry clothes in the vehicle to reduce the risk from the cold should you have to wait for help in the event of a break down or minor crash in cold weather, particularly after skiing. Vehicle Standards Information | No. 57 | 9 June 2009 4 (4 pages)


  • Most people have to travel a considerable distance to get to the snow fields. Ensure you have regular breaks to ‘stop, revive and survive’.


  • Even allowing for delays and distance to travel, driving to and from the snow fields can be more tiring than normal driving given the possible difficult conditions encountered – adverse weather, darkness and narrow, winding roads. In addition, many people are more susceptible to driver fatigue when going to and from the snow fields as they try and pack so much activity into a short period of time, especially at weekends. Again, it is important to stop and rest as soon as you feel tired even if you have not scheduled a break.


  • Temperature fluctuations between night and day produces dew which settles on cold surfaces such as vehicles and freezes as frost or ice. Also, snow can settle and freeze on a vehicle if it is parked for even a short time. You should not drive if your windows are frozen as it can be very difficult to see through them. It can take a considerable amount of time for a vehicle’s heating system to thaw frost or ice from them. Keep an ice scraper in your vehicle for removing snow, frost and ice from your windows before commencing a journey. Additionally, you should add anti-freeze to your windscreen washing fluid otherwise it could freeze instantly on a cold windscreen while driving.  Ensure your radiator fluid and your windscreen washing fluid can withstand temperatures below freezing points by adding anti-freeze additives to them if necessary.


  • Diesel ‘waxes’ at low temperature which blocks the fuel system and immobilises the vehicle. If you drive a diesel vehicle, ensure you use fuel formulated for use in cold conditions, such as ‘Alpine Diesel’. This is only usually available close to the snow fields, so plan your journey to arrive with plenty of room in your fuel tank for this fuel. 


  • Take particular care when driving at night or at dawn or dusk as surface moisture and dew freeze and may become black ice, which is very difficult to detect on the road. Indeed, black ice can remain in shaded or low-lying areas even during fine days. Note: An advantage in fitting winter tyres to your vehicle is that they provide superior grip on cold roads and on black ice.


  • To be effective, snow chains must be fitted to the driving wheels on two-wheel drive vehicles or on the wheels designated by the manufacturer of 4WD vehicles. The appropriate wheels should be specified in the owner’s manual. If in doubt, check with the vehicle’s manufacturer. 


  • Obey all instructions and observe all information provided by the RTA, NSW Police, National Parks and Wildlife Services and other authorities. Be aware of variable message signs as these provide upto-date information about the weather and road conditions and if snow chains have to be fitted. 


  • Snow chains come in different sizes to suit different wheels. You should know the size of the wheels on your vehicle to ensure you buy or rent the appropriate snow chains. Note: Some types of wheel and tyre configurations may not be able to have snow chains fitted to them, such as low profile wheels on performance cars. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to see whether snow chains can be fitted to these vehicles. 


  • If you intend using textile traction devices on a 4WD vehicle, check their condition before departure to ensure that they are free of defects that could affect their performance. 


  • Driving in cold weather on slippery or dry roads require more distance to brake and reduces the cornering performance of your vehicle. Adjust your speed and following distance accordingly.


  • Ambient light in the mountains can be poor, especially in wintertime. You should drive with your headlights on low beam even during daytime to improve your visibility to other road users.”