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Winter driving

The ultimate guide to staying safe on the roads this winter

We Are Marmalade profile

We Are Marmalade

October 12, 2020

Driving advice 9 min read

As we head into the colder months of the year, the conditions on the roads will drastically change and for some learner drivers this will present new challenges and experiences when driving. Searches for the unanimous winter must-have, ‘deicer’ are due to spike over the next few weeks indicating UK drivers will begin prepping for the cold.

So, with the conditions changing, we have put together a definitive guide for keeping safe on the roads this winter. Whether it’s avoiding falling victim to on-the-spot fines or ensuring you stay safe on the roads, here’s what you need to know:

Frosty and foggy windscreens

As temperatures drop in the mornings and evenings, our windscreens will start to freeze and clearing them completely can be a pain when you’re in a rush, as it will likely hold you up for 10 minutes or so. 

But those 10 minutes could save you £60 in fines and in extreme cases, £1,000 if driving with the obstruction is deemed to be careless driving! As Rule 229 of the Highway Code states; you must be able to see, so no ice, snow or fog on your windows before you set off. 

If it snows, ensure that all snow is removed from the roof of your vehicle. Whilst you might clear your screen, a sudden stop or turn as you begin driving could cause the snow to slide on to your windscreen obstructing your vision or even the vision and path of another vehicle, which could lead to points on your licence and a max fine of £2,500 for driving without due care and attention. 

Rule 229 of the Highway Code, advises the following: 

  1. You MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows
  2. You MUST ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible
  3. Make sure the mirrors are clear and the windows are demisted thoroughly
  4. Remove all snow that might fall off into the path of other road users
  5. Check your planned route is clear of delays and that no further snowfall or severe weather is predicted

But, what about when your windscreen is clear of ice and then once you’re in the car, the windows fog up? With so many dials and settings, which is the correct combination to clear the steam from your screen? We have set the combination up in one of our cars below, so you can do it in yours without confusion: 

The wider risks of wet & dirty roads

Rain, snow and storms all lead to wet and dirty roads which can pose many problems for new drivers, especially if correct precautions haven’t been taken. Dirty road water can splash on to your car and if you aren’t keeping it clean, potentially cover your number plate. 

Whatever it is that splashes up your car while driving, if it builds up and covers your number plate you could face a £1,000 fine for having an illegally displayed plate.

Wet roads present more of a hazard than dry roads and increase stopping distances, plus driving in the rain can affect visibility. Therefore, we recommend adjusting your speed and distance from the car in front depending on how wet the roads are and how heavy the rain is, to give you more time and space to react.

Before having the luxury of our own vehicles, it’s likely we were all caught walking in the rain and for some of us that weren’t so lucky, we were probably splashed by someone driving through a huge puddle. Now that you are the one with the power to splash, don’t be tempted to, as driving through water with the aim to splash a pedestrian can carry a fine of up to £5,000 under the offence of driving without due care and consideration for others if it is proved that you did it deliberately.

Ensure that your windscreen wipers work on every setting confirming they can move on the quickest setting without sticking, because if the heavens do open whilst you’re on the road, your vision could disappear in seconds if the rain becomes too much for your wipers.

Cold?! Wrapping up too much could land you in hot water

Gloves, tight scarf, lots of layers and a big puffa jacket? This could reduce your ability to move, gloves that aren’t meant for driving may provide little grip of the steering wheel, a big puffa jacket and a tight scarf may make it more difficult to move and see out of your windows. 

If you happen to be involved in an accident while wrapped up, you could be viewed as at-fault if what you’re wearing contributed to your driving and ultimately, the accident, meaning your insurers might not pay out and you’ll need to cover damages out of your own pocket.

Driving inappropriately, in this case that could be changing lanes on a motorway without being able to check over your shoulder because of the layers which could lead to a £100 on-the-spot fine for careless driving. The size of the fine increases with the severity, with the max fine £2,500, so it might be worth investing in better car heaters, driving gloves and a warmer jumper if you feel the cold.

Some final pearls of wisdom…

We hope this never happens, but if you begin to lose control in poor weather conditions, like snow or ice, always look where you want your car to go, rather than what you might hit to keep your hands aiming the car in the right direction.

Before every drive, check your tyres as their tread is vital in adverse conditions. Legally, tyre tread must be a minimum of 1.6mm to pass, although performance is drastically reduced at less than 3mm. You can measure if there’s more than 3mm tread with a 20p coin. If the edge disappears when dropped into the tread, then you are good to go!

Bald tread could lead to a fine of £2,500 meaning a vehicle with four bad tyres could set you back by a whopping £10,000!

If you get caught in some mud or on some ice and can’t drive off it, place one of your car mats under your tyres to give you the traction to get moving.

Always keep an emergency winter kit in your car, consisting of a blanket, cereal bars and water for yourself. For your car, be sure to have de-icer and window scraper, as well as a first aid kit, jump leads and shovel just in case you get caught away from home in torrential weather conditions.

Stay safe out there and remember to drive responsibly and carefully.

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By We Are Marmalade

'We champion young drivers with award-winning low cost insurance for learner and new drivers and a great young drivers' car scheme.'  See more posts by We Are

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