Snow, ice and winds have swept across the UK over the past few days, coating parts of the country. Weather warnings are still in place, as yet more snow is anticipated to fall today. And now drivers are being cautioned to ensure their cars can cope with the cold, with more than one million drivers at risk of accidents.
A yellow weather warning for snow is currently in place for East Midlands, North East England, North West England, SW Scotland, Lothian Borders, West Midlands, and Yorkshire & Humber.
Whilst the amount of snow that could fall remains uncertain, roads and railways could be impacted with longer journey times for passengers.
With the potential for dangerous weather on the roads, making sure your car is in the best possible condition is the best way to prevent accidents.
Research from car insurance provider 1ST CENTRAL revealed 65 percent of UK motorists have had an accident or experienced issues driving in wintry weather.
Since last winter, there has been a 15 percent increase in the number of claims made per day as a result of road traffic accidents.
Driving in snow: The snow can make driving difficult and accidents more likely
During the ‘Beast from the East’ specifically, 50 percent more drivers sought help through breakdown assistance than the year before.
1ST CENTRAL say more than one million drivers will drive off without taking the necessary precautions to check their vehicle is winter driving ready.
According to the research, the most common causes of accidents in the colder months is ice on the road (44 percent), poor visibility (31 percent) and lack of tyre grip (14 percent) which causes the car to skid.
Andy James, UK CEO of 1ST CENTRAL, said: “Drivers should take extra care during the winter months and check their insurance includes breakdown assistance as winter continuously proves to be the most dangerous time for drivers on the road.
“Many drivers will forget to take extra precautions in the winter, but your safety and the safety of others on the road can be greatly improved by making simple checks, such as clearing your car of ice and checking tyre tread.”
Tips for driving safely in the winter
1. Change your tyres for winter
Changing harder summer tyres to softer winter tyres can help when driving in wet weather as softer rubber has more traction on ice and snow.
Make sure you check the health of your tyres by ensuring they fulfil the minimum tread depth of 1.6 mm as required by law – good tyre grip can improve steering, reduce braking distance and cut the risk of aquaplaning.
2. Carry winter accessories with you
Research revealed two-thirds of British motorists (68 per cent) don’t bother taking practical winter accessories with them when they drive in severe winter weather.
Don’t forget to carry extra cloths and scrapers for clearing windows and, depending on what areas of the country you’re driving in, take chains for the tyres and a compact shovel to dig yourself out of deep snow.
Driving in snow: Make sure you store an emergency pack in your car
3. Check your headlights
With days being shorter, it’s imperative that you’re prepared and equipped to drive during the low or bad lighting – check that all the bulbs in your headlights are working and replace any that are dim.
If you’ve never done this before, consult your owner manual for instructions on this, or take it to a local garage and they can do this for you.
4. Ensure your car is well maintained
Make sure your screen washer is suitable for temperatures for up to 10 degrees as sometimes it cannot handle low temperatures and freeze in the engine.
A chip or scratch on the windscreen can be dangerous if left unfixed, especially in winter as there is more grit on the road.
Driving in snow: Regularly checking your car’s condition can prevent accidents
5. Defrost your car correctly
Research has revealed that one in 10 drivers (10 per cent) will damage their own car by de-icing their windscreen the wrong way.
When you get into a cold car the first thing you’ll want to do is turn on the heat.
However, the rapid rise in temperature will cause the windshield glass to expand and the pressure can cause any chips or cracks to expand so take extra time in the morning and evening to use a scraper and de-icer to thoroughly clear ice and snow from your car so that you don’t damage the glass.
6. Remember twice the stopping distance
Black ice can be commonly found on bridges, overpasses, and shaded roadways; to handle black ice and slippery areas, keep a two car length stopping distance between you and the car in front.
Not only will this help with breaking time, but it allows you to see and avoid the tyre spray from the car in front.
Driving in snow: Keep a two car stopping distance between you and the car in front
7. W is for water
One of the most serious faults that can occur in your car during the winter is a frozen engine – the right coolant is very important as it keeps the engine cool in winter without it freezing.
If you use water rather than good quality coolant or antifreeze in your car’s cooling system, it will freeze, causing huge internal pressures that will damage your engine. If your car’s cooling system has frozen, don’t run the car – instead, switch it on and let it gradually warm up to loosen the cooling system and get the fluids moving.
8. Always check for road closures and listen out for diversions prior to any long journeys
It might seem obvious but check the radio or research the route you’re travelling on in case there are any road closures; extreme weather can change quickly, so try and get an up-to-the-minute status update before you set off.
Most connected devices have navigation apps that will re-route your journey to overcome diversions, avoid heavy traffic and estimate your time of arrival.
Many car radios come with the Radio Data System (RDS) as standard, and this allows a vehicle’s radio to temporarily turn to a station for the duration of a travel announcement, before switching back again – check your settings to ensure this is enabled on your drive.