The Hazards of Winter Motoring and How to Avoid Them

15 January 2021

Two vehicles were stolen in Louth, Lincolnshire this week. They had both been started and left to defrost on the roadside by their owners – incidents that highlight just one of the possible pitfalls of winter motoring. Wilkin Chapman Partner, Steve Hennegan, our Personal Injury specialist, looks at how to keep you, others, and your vehicles safe at this time of year.

“Now we’re into cold and frosty mornings - a reminder to you all please. Do not de-ice your car by turning the engine on and then leave it unattended whilst it defrosts!”

– Lincolnshire Police

This was the advice from Lincolnshire police after the two vehicles were stolen. But did you know, it is also illegal to leave your vehicle unattended in this way?

Under “The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, No. 1078, Part IV, Section E, Regulation 98 & Part F, Regulation 107” - you must not leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.

There are also insurance problems you may face, most motor insurance company policies exclude cover for theft of the vehicle, or will invalidate the policy, if the keys are left in the car and/or it is left unlocked with the engine running! This will leave you with no car, or the financial means for you to replace your stolen vehicle.

Keeping your Vehicle Roadworthy in Winter

Other areas of the law are also worth noting when it comes to how we all prepare our vehicles and drive them in the bad weather. If another ‘Beast from the East’ is around the corner, we should be prepared and be aware that the following laws are applicable to comply with the Highway Code:

  • Your windscreens and windows must be clear. If your view is blocked not only is it dangerous, but you are also breaching a section of “The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986”, which states ‘all glass or other transparent material fitted to a motor vehicle shall be maintained in such condition that it does not obscure the vision of the driver while the vehicle is being driven on a road’;
  • Lights and registration plates must be clear and visible – this is important all year round, but even more so on dark winter mornings and nights or in heavy storms. Vision can be restricted even during the day. If your lights are not visible you are flouting a section of “The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989”.

10 Ways to Stay Safe on the Road in Winter


1)Always plan – driving in bad weather can take longer, allow for this. Pack warm clothes, food and drink if appropriate. Check the weather before you leave or plan an alternative route to your destination or simply wait for the weather to pass or ease. Bearing in mind we are still in lockdown still, is the journey necessary?


2)Try and stick to main roads and routes where you can, these roads will be gritted and will be clear of possible hazards due to traffic travelling on it.


3)Drive slowly, increase your braking/stopping distance. Allow yourself more time and space for you to react to something that might happen in front of you unexpectedly, particularly if it’s icy or foggy and to avoid spray from the vehicle in front. In the snow it is recommended that you need 10 times the normal stopping distance.


4)Check your car is in good working order – windscreen wipers are in a good condition and working, tyres have good tread and grip, and the brakes are in good order. In winter condition the tyres and braking need checking more frequently. Top up your screen wash and so on, make sure you have plenty of fuel in the car for the journey and unexpected delays.


5)Listen to the radio or have your car radio tuned into traffic reports and updates.


6)Use dipped headlights if visibility is poor. Make sure you can not only see, but can be seen as well !


7)Grip the steering wheel firmly with both hands, so you are in control at all times should you unexpectedly hit ice or experience a gust of wind or similar.


8)Avoid steep and exposed hills and areas, unless you enjoy challenging driving conditions in snow and ice.


9)When driving in the snow accelerate gently, using low revs, use second gear instead of first gear to drive off to avoid skidding and to gain better traction;


10)Try not to brake suddenly (easier said than done I know), it may lock up your wheels and cause you to skid.


Please do drive carefully and keep safe out on the roads.


As Personal Injury specialists, we are here to support and advise if accidents have occurred, but prevention is better than cure and we would rather see you take steps to minimise risk in the first place. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, (RoSPA) has a winter driving factsheet available on its website at www.rospa.com, download it, digest it – and please stay safe.

For advice or an informal chat, Steve Hennegan can be contacted on 01472 253948 or by email: steve.hennegan@wilkinchapman.co.uk


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