Winter is a challenging time for drivers, and with many parts of the country forecast for snow over this period the roads can be dangerous.
Under the current Government Guidelines you must not leave your home unless you have a reasonable excuse (such as to go to work, where you cannot reasonably work from home, for medical appointments, to buy essential goods and for once a day outdoor exercise). Where you do need to travel, you should stay local, and only travel within your village, town or part of city where you live.
If you must travel for one of these reasons, it is important to be prepared and drive appropriately in the wintery weather.
How to prepare for the drive
Give yourself plenty of extra time to prepare for and complete your journey to stop yourself from rushing:
- The Highway Code says: “Before you set off you MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows”. Police can issue fines if your windscreen is obstructed in any way. Whilst it is not illegal to drive with snow on your roof, if it falls onto your windscreen or into the path of another road user then you could be fined for driving without due consideration. Make sure your windows are completely de-iced and that your car is completely clear of snow before you move off. Your lights must be clear and number plate visible too.
- Check that your car is properly maintained. Make sure your windscreen wipers are working properly, that all of your lights work and that you are familiar with where to find your fog lights, if needed.
- Check your planned route is clear of delays and that no further severe weather is forecast
- Make sure you are prepared in case of emergency. Ensure that your phone is fully charged, and that you have food, water and something to keep you warm, just in case you get stuck.
How to navigate icy roads
If you do need to venture out on the icy roads, here are some tips to help you stay safe:
- Try to keep to major roads which are more likely to have been gritted.
- Give yourself more space on the road. Stopping distances can be up to 10 times longer when driving on ice compared to normal dry conditions so make sure to keep your distance from the car in front.
- Accelerate, brake, steer and change gear as smoothly as possible to reduce the risk of skidding. Aim for gentle manoeuvres and brake very gently.
- When driving on hills, wait until it is clear so that you do not have to stop half way. Going uphill, try to keep a constant speed and avoid having to change gear. Going downhill, go slowly using a low gear and try to avoid any harsh braking.
- If you do lose control of your vehicle, try to keep calm. Keep both hands on the wheel and avoid braking. Try to steer into the skid to help get you straight and back on track.
What to do if you have a collision
Unfortunately, accidents happen and it is important to know what to do if you are involved in an accident:
- Obtain the contact details of everyone involved and the vehicle registration numbers of vehicles.
- Make a note of the names and contact details of any witnesses
- Take photos of the accident scene and the vehicles involved, if safe to do so
- Take photos and measurements of any defects that may have caused the accident, if safe to do so
- Consider reporting the accident to the police and follow up to obtain the police reference number and details of any investigations
- If you are injured seek medical attention as soon as possible
Bringing a personal injury claim
If you have been injured in a road traffic accident through no fault of your own, you may also be able to claim compensation for your injury.
In order to bring a successful claim you will need to prove that the accident was a result of someone else’s negligence and that as a result you suffered an injury. Was the accident caused by the driving of another road user, or by a poorly maintained road surface? If so, you may be able to bring a claim against the driver and/or the Local Highways Authority.