Driving in the winter can be anything from a drag to downright dangerous. Whether you're facing a white-knuckle drive through snow and ice, being buffeted by gales or squinting because of winter sun glare, there are plenty of challenges. As far as motorists are concerned, it's the least wonderful time of the year.

Make it easy on yourself

Remember that many winter mishaps can be avoided by a bit of forward planning.

Time is of the essence so always allow more time for your journey in the winter.

If it's below freezing, then take into account that you'll need to de-ice the windows at the very least. When you're de-icing your windscreen it's important to do it properly – don't set off with just a tiny letterbox-shaped hole to peer through and tell yourself the other windows will defrost as you drive along. 

Icy, foggy and stormy conditions mean the same distance can take longer to negotiate safely than on a balmy summer's day. So if your morning commute normally takes half an hour, allow more time and if you get there early hopefully this will earn you full marks from the powers that be.

Think before you park

When you're parking in icy or snowy weather try to face downhill or on a level surface as driving off on an uphill slope is likely to prove risky; you could lose traction and roll backwards into another car. Ideally, park with the car windscreen facing east. The sun might be weak at this time of year, but it can still provide a useful bit of momentum when it comes to defrosting your windscreen in the morning. You'd be surprised how many accidents are caused by lack of visibility when a driver first sets off in the winter due to not de-icing properly.

Carry a winter car care kit

This should include a fully charged mobile phone, ice-scraper, de-icing spray, fold-up shovel, warm clothes, walking shoes, a torch, reflective jacket, cat litter (yes really! Keep reading to find out why), water and an emergency snack. If you suspect that you'll wolf down your 'emergency snack' every time you get in the car, make it something you don't like, such as mint cake or an energy bar.

The great escape

Returning to a snowed-in car is the last thing anybody wants. But as long as it's not too deep there are lots of little tricks for getting yourself out. Clear as much snow as you can from in front of the wheels with your shovel. If you haven't got one then improvise with anything handy such as the ice scraper.

And then this is where the cat litter comes in. It's great for providing grip for your tyres, so if you've got some, now is the time to scatter it around. If you don't, then try using the footwell mats or find some leaves, twigs or small stones so that your wheels can find some traction. Hopefully you'll soon be on your way!

Just be careful out there

Icy conditions can be very dangerous and make you feel as if nerves of steel are required just to drive to the supermarket. If you do need to venture out, stick to gritted roads as much as possible. Keep your speed down and drive slowly. Let your braking, acceleration and steering all be gentle and unhurried. Fresh snow offers more grip than ice so try not to follow the tyre marks of the vehicle in front of you on the road.

Any driver with an ounce of sense knows they should drive carefully on icy roads. But when the day has warmed up and much of the ice seems to have melted, it's easy to get caught out. Be aware that there can still be ice in places the sun hasn't been able to get to yet such as under bridges, under the shadow of trees, or where there are dips in the road.

If the weather is severe, try to do what the police always advise and avoid any unnecessary journeys.