A recent survey by Brake and Churchill Car Insurance found most drivers don’t fully understand the dangers of driving in ice and snow, and many will happily set off in treacherous conditions. Only one in six (16%) avoid driving in snow while nine in ten (91%) underestimate stopping distances in icy conditions by half. 13% do not ensure their car has a minimum 3mm tyre tread over winter, and 14% don’t carry an ice-scraper or de-icer over winter.
Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said:“Every year we support many families whose lives have been torn apart by bad weather crashes, so we’re calling on drivers to do everything they can to help avoid tragedies during this cold snap. The most important message is to err on the side of caution and not drive if it’s snowing, forecast to snow, or there are other potentially deadly conditions. Ice, snow, heavy rain and fog make driving incredibly risky; stopping distances double in the wet and can increase ten-fold in ice and snow, and if you can’t see clearly you can’t react to hazards. We are also urging drivers to be prepared. Listen to forecasts, and make sure your vehicle is properly maintained and kitted out. If you get caught in bad weather the most critical thing is to slow right down and keep your distance, bearing in mind it will take you much longer to stop in an emergency.”
Brake’s ABC advice on winter driving
Avoid driving in snow and other treacherous conditions. Never set off when it’s snowing or forecast to, and avoid driving if you possibly can in other bad conditions like fog, heavy rain and ice. Consider alternatives such as walking or using public transport if available. Speak to your employer in advance about working from home when weather is very bad, especially if you live in a rural area prone to snow or floods.
Be prepared. Make sure your vehicle is well maintained, and tyres have a tread depth of at least 3mm. Check forecasts and plan your route to avoid roads likely to be more risky and allow plenty of time. Pack a winter driving kit in case you’re caught out. This should include: an ice scraper or de-icer; torch; cloths; a blanket and warm clothes; food and drink; first-aid kit; spade; warning triangle; and high-visibility vest. Always take a fully charged phone in case of emergencies, but don’t be tempted to use it when driving.
Careful and cautious driving. If you do get caught out driving in treacherous conditions, you need to slow right down increase the distance behind the vehicle in front. In rain your stopping distance doubles, so keep a four second gap. In snow or icy conditions stopping distances increase by as much as ten times so you need to drop right back. Keep careful look out for people on foot and bikes who may be harder to spot. Avoid harsh braking and acceleration and carry out manoeuvres slowly and with extra care.