Stay safe this winter with pro tips from rally world champion Jan Kopecký

› ŠKODA works driver advises driving with foresight in challenging weather conditions

› “Adjust speed, maintain adequate distance from the car in front and avoid distractions”

› Winter tyres with a sufficient tread depth of at least four millimetres are a must

Mladá Boleslav, 27 December 2019 – In rain or snow, driving in the winter months requires

great care. It can become dangerous at temperatures around freezing because the

conditions on the road can change quickly. In this interview, Czech rally professional Jan

Kopecký, ŠKODA works driver and WRC2 world champion from 2018 gives valuable tips on

how drivers can recognise treacherous road conditions early on and keep their ŠKODA

under control even in challenging situations.

Jan, as a rally driver you are used to driving in challenging conditions such as on wet roads,

in snow and on ice. On public roads, drivers can also find themselves in these situations,

especially in autumn and winter. What can we do to be prepared?

Jan Kopecký: The most important advice that every driver should bear in mind at all times, not

only in autumn and winter: Don’t let yourself be distracted at the wheel, always drive at a sufficient

distance from other road users and maintain an appropriate speed. Drivers should check the

weather forecast before setting off and allow additional time if necessary. Starting the journey

earlier can reduce stress, especially on the way to the office. Before setting off, the car should be

completely free of snow and ice. This also includes scraping the roof and the bonnet. Only people

who have good visibility can react well. Besides, cars driving behind must not be endangered by

falling snow or ice. Your driving style must always adapt to the conditions of the road. Every driver

should prepare their vehicle for journeys in the cold season. Winter tyres with a sufficient tread

depth of at least four millimetres are a must.

How can we recognise that the road is going to be slippery or icy?

Kopecký: At low temperatures, darker patches on the road are a sign of slippery surfaces; if the

road has a glittery appearance, you should ease off the accelerator. When there is snow on the

ground, the road surface is often slippery; salt can turn the snow into slush, which also increases

the risk of slipping. Your speed should also be reduced when the snow is firm because the road

could be frozen under the snow, which you as a driver may not immediately notice. Therefore, drive

with foresight and pay attention to your distance from other road users. In such situations, you

should always maintain a gap of three seconds from the person in front.

What is the best way to react when you approach a slippery section of road?

Kopecký: Rule number one: keep calm and do not panic. In principle, the driver should reduce

their speed by at least half on a snowy or icy road because your braking distance is three to four

times longer in these weather conditions. To avoid the car slipping and getting out of control, abrupt

steering and braking should be avoided. Personally, I either don’t drive on slippery roads at all or I

drive as if I had fresh eggs in the boot. In vehicles with a manual transmission, the clutch should be

depressed if the vehicle skids, then the wheels only have to transmit longitudinal forces.

Nevertheless, if the car slips on a bend, it is usually enough to steer into the slide, i.e. steer the

direction the car is sliding to regain control. Changing lanes when there is snow between lanes also

works best if you step on the clutch and let the car roll into the other lane with a little more


Both making adjustments to our driving style and having the right equipment can prevent

problems on winder roads. What should motorists have in the car with them during the


Kopecký: You should have an ice scraper and a brush to remove snow from your car. At ŠKODA,

these two Simply Clever features are included as standard in the new OCTAVIA in the fuel cap and

the door. Sometimes a de-icer spray can also be helpful: It makes the job much easier if the layer of

ice is particularly thick or you do not have much strength. Snow chains are a must when driving in

the mountains, but putting them on should be practised beforehand. There should also be sufficient

windscreen washer fluid and antifreeze in the water tank. With older car batteries, a battery check is

highly recommended before winter sets in.

What can we do to prevent the wheels from spinning when pulling away on slippery roads?

Kopecký: When driving a modern ŠKODA, traction control usually helps in such cases. In vehicles

with a manual gearbox, you can also engage second gear to start and play a bit with the clutch and

accelerator pedal to avoid stalling.

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