Winter driving in Sweden
Driving during the winter in Sweden and Scandinavia may offer some stunning views, but the weather will also be more prone to cause traffic accidents. The temperature and amount of snow during the winter in Sweden differs a lot between different parts of the country and from year to year, and the “winter season” doesn’t necessarily mean snowy roads. Generally, heavy snowfall is more frequent in the northern parts of Sweden and the lower temperatures up there will keep it on the ground longer.
As long as you drive on official, well-maintained roads there are no reasons to be worried – just use your best judgement during harsh weather. If the weather is nice and it hasn’t been snowing, there shouldn’t be any issues at all – but always be on the lookout if the weather changes as visibility gets limited and roads can freeze very quickly.
You should enjoy the ride when driving in winter, but always drive as carefully as you would have anyway.
Many people ask us if it’s safe or dangerous to be driving during the winter in Sweden. The short answer is no, but there are a few important thing to keep in mind when driving in winter and some essential precautions may actually save lives.
When on the road during the winter:
- Check the weather forecast and plan your trip accordingly. The winter itself is not a problem, but heavy snowfall and icy roads might be. If the weather is calm – you shouldn’t worry.
- Try not to have a tight schedule on your roadtrip. It may be very wise to avoid driving when the weather is extreme, and you should do so if possible.
- Keep in mind that sunset may occur very early in Sweden during the winter and you may find yourself driving in the dark. This is very dangerous during heavy snowfall and blizzards as your vision is very limited.
- Don’t drive on “fumes” – fill up whenever you are below half a tank of gas. You don’t want to run out of fuel when it’s cold and snowing.
- Avoid minor roads. Larger roads and highways are often better maintained and if something happens there’s a better chance someone can help you.
- Be aware of icy roads and lower your speed to avoid accidents. Be extra cautious when it’s raining at around 0 °C (32 °F). The water may already be below freezing point and instantly creates a slippery, icy surface when it hits the road. This is very difficult to detect as the road will only look like it’s wet.
- If a road is closed it is closed for a reason – do not try to get through on alternative routes.
- Always keep your distance to the vehicle in front of you. During the winter, it might take a longer time to stop your car than what you’re used to.
If something unfortunate after all happens on the road? Read more what to do if you’re in an accident while driving in Sweden.
(Snowy roads can be really beautiful in Sweden, but always pay attention for unforeseen weather-changes and don’t hesitate to lower your speed)
Vehicle and equipment preparation
Make sure that your car is working properly and that it’s equipped with:
- Proper tires for winter driving and antifreeze mixture – ask your rental car company about this if you’re driving a rental car.
- Warm clothing/blankets, food and water, flashlight, shovel, first-aid kit, ice-scraper, matches or a lighter and all your vital medication. A SOS phone charger/flashlight is also a great item to keep in your car.
- A can of windshield de-icer is a good idea to bring on cold trips – it usually works as a quick fix for those frozen car locks as well.
- If you plan on driving in isolated, poorly maintained areas you may also consider bringing a piece of heavy rug, cardboard or some gravel. Putting it under you tires might give you the extra grip needed if you’re stuck in the snow. You can also try using twigs and branches or the floor mats of your car for this purpose. Snow socks can be used to get a better grip if you already know that you’ll be driving in areas with a lot of snow.
If you are stuck in the snow
If your car is stuck in the snow, there are a few things that may be useful to keep in mind:
- You can place twigs and branches behind and under your tires to get a better grip. If there is sand or gravel nearby, try that too.
- Try to get help from passing traffic. Read more here about what to do when you’re in need of help along the road.
- If you can get loose – stay in the vehicle and keep warm.
- If there’s no service on your phone – save battery. Use it only 15 minutes every hour and when battery is really low, only during daytime. Chances that rescuers can pick up your signal is higher during the day when rescue missions are more intense and effective.
- Try rationing your food and make sure your medication doesn’t freeze.
But don’t be alarmed – dangerous traffic accidents are actually more common during the summer in Sweden, as people tend to drive faster. Just be extra cautious if you’re not used to driving in winter weather and you’ll be fine.
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