Snow and winter driving

Stay safe this winter with these driving tips

Winter driving 

Extreme weather and poor light can make driving dangerous in the winter months. Make sure you adjust the way you drive by following these steps.

  • Maintain a safe distance to the vehicle in front, it takes twice as much distance to stop in the rain.
  • Reduce your speed and take off a little slower, wet and greasy roads can cause a vehicle to slip and slide.
  • Accelerate smoothly and brake gently.  
  • Turn the vehicle headlights on to increase your visibility to other road users.
  • In fog or snowy conditions, use fog lights instead of setting your headlights on high beam, if you don’t have fog lights you can use your hazard lights with your headlights on low beam.
  • Beware of water on the road and avoid large puddles. Never drive through floodwater, it is extremely dangerous.
  • Check the weather and avoid unnecessary travel in heavy rain, hail or sleet. If you start to lose visibility of the edges of the road find somewhere safe to pull over. 
  • Driving in poor weather can be especially tiring so if you are travelling long distances remember to take regular breaks. 

You should always check your vehicle’s safety equipment, tyres, windscreen wipers, battery, lights and brakes. This is always important, especially in winter when wet conditions are particularly hard on vehicles. 

Black ice 

You cannot see black ice. Black ice generally forms at night time, in the early mornings or on sections of the roads that haven’t been exposed to sunlight, like under tree cover. 

Take the following steps to minimise risk.

  • Check for black ice warnings by visiting VicTraffic or downloading the VicTraffic app
  • Delay your trip if you can to avoid icy conditions. If you have to drive, allow plenty of time and drive carefully.
  • If possible, use a car equipped with Electronic Stability Control (ESC).
  • Braking takes longer in icy conditions so always allow for plenty of room between you and the car in front.
  • Slow down and be patient. 

What do I do if I hit black ice? 

  • If you hit black ice, you will have little or no control over your vehicle.
  • Until you clear the patch of ice, use the accelerator, brakes and steering as little as possible.
  • Avoid accelerating, braking hard or turning the steering wheel quickly. If you try to struggle against the ice by braking hard or steering in the opposite direction, you increase the risk of spinning out.

Snow driving 

Driving in snowy conditions requires a lot of concentration and patience. Stay calm if you’re stuck in a long queue and always follow road signs and directions by resort staff, they’re there for your safety.

Before you take off 

  • Check road conditions by visiting VicTraffic or downloading the VicTraffic app
  • Make sure your car battery is in good condition and that the air-conditioning system is working properly.
  • Anti-freeze is recommended in your radiator.
  • Pack your sunglasses for snow glare.
  • Diesel vehicles should fill up with alpine diesel mix which is available at service stations in the alpine area.

As you drive 

  • Drive cautiously with two hands on the wheel and steady pressure on the accelerator.
  • Brake with steady pressure.
  • Avoid braking when cornering.
  • Fit chains to your tyres when advised or if the road looks icy (more on this below).
  • Engage low gear when you drive down a mountain.
  • If you hit ice, remain calm and apply the brakes gently to slowly regain traction.
  • At night, only use low beam lights. High beams do not work in high mist areas. If you can’t see, pull over, put on your hazard lights and keep your engine running.


  • Park only where directed.
  • Leave the car in gear with the front wheels turned away from the slope.
  • Always park as close to the bank as possible, to leave room for two-way traffic.
  • Reverse into a car park or make sure you can drive out forward. Poor vision makes reversing out of car parks dangerous.
  • Put your wiper blades up to avoid them freezing to the windscreen.
  • If you have a manual car leave it in a gear that would allow you to drive out of the car park.

Snow chains

When driving in snowy conditions, drivers should always carry snow chains and fit them if directed by authorities.

Check out our chain fitting checklist below.

  • Practice fitting chains before a trip.
  • Only fit chains to driving wheels (check the manufacturer’s guidelines when fitting chains).
  • Fit chains at fitting bays on level ground.
  • If chains fall off or loosen when a vehicle is in motion stop and check for damage before re-fitting.
  • Carry a torch, plastic garbage bag and gloves to make fitting easier.
  • Use diamond pattern snow chains.
  • Tyres must be in good condition with minimal wear
  • For better control of your vehicle and to prevent damaging the chains, drive at a lower speed and avoid sudden acceleration or braking.
  • If you’re visiting a resort visit their website for more information on snow chains.  

For more information, read up on snow chain rules.

Map of rest areas 

Driving to and from the alpine region can be a long journey for some, particularly after a big day on the slopes. Here’s our map of rest stops to help you plan ahead and avoid drowsiness.