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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Car insurance experts warn drivers to avoid these common mistakes and reveal how to stay safe during the cold snap

This new year has started with a nationwide cold snap expected to last weeks.    

 

Frost and snow have blanketed parts of England and Wales, temperatures are forecast to plunge to as low as –9°C in parts of Scotland, and over 100 flood warnings have been issued in the aftermath of Storm Henk.   

 

In light of this, accident compensation experts Claims.co.uk discuss the dangers of driving in winter conditions, warn drivers to avoid these common mistakes, and reveal how to stay safe on the road this week.   

 

Here are four common mistakes to avoid

 

1. Suddenly breaking on ice   

It is common for drivers to panic while skidding or sliding on frost and snow-covered roads. However, sudden breaking on ice is the worst thing to do when faced with this situation, as sudden manoeuvres increase the risk of skidding and losing control. Instead, drivers should steer gently in the direction of the slide and proceed with caution.    

2. Ignoring following distances    

Inadequate following distance can lead to rear-end collisions, especially in low-visibility conditions. Throughout the year, it is expected to stay at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front. In winter, this extends to three or four seconds, depending on the severity of the weather, as snow and frost increase braking distances.    

 

3. Overlooking tire maintenance   

Drivers should always check that their tires are free from splits and tears. However, as the weather is unpredictable at best in the U.K., drivers should also ensure their tires have a tread depth of at least 1.6mm. Not only is this a legal requirement across the U.K. and Europe, but it will also reduce the chances of skidding and sliding on slippery roads.    

 

4. Neglecting vehicle preparation    

Frost, snow and other winter conditions present challenges for every driver. In fact, research shows that motor vehicles are 51% more likely to have battery-related issues during the cold weather. So, the first mistake a driver can make is to overlook the necessary vehicle preparations, including (but not limited to) checking that the breaks, lights, battery and heating systems are in working order before setting off.   

 

Here are four ways to stay safe this week

 

1. Using dipped headlights 

Winter conditions can limit visibility for drivers. However, it is important to always use dipped headlights when travelling in the snow, fog and rain. Low beams prevent glare and enhance the visibility of your vehicle to both oncoming and trailing traffic.  

 

2. Starting in second gear 

In order to stay safe during the cold snap, drivers are urged to entirely avoid first gear when driving on the snow. Drivers are minimising the likelihood of wheel spin on slippery surfaces by starting the vehicle in the second gear.  

 

3. Driving in high gear 

Next, drivers should select a higher gear once on the road. Lower gears increase engine revs and causes the wheels to spin quickly, whereas higher gears help to keep wheel-spin to a minimum and prevent accidents in winter.  

4. Preparing an emergency kit  

Every driver should be prepared for an emergency. In the event of an unexpected breakdown, having an emergency kit can help drivers and passengers navigate the situation safely. This kit may include blankets, torches, anti-freeze, car engine coolant, etc. Lack of emergency preparedness can escalate minor issues into potentially dangerous situations when driving during the winter.    

 

A spokesperson at Claims.co.uk has commented: “The U.K. is currently experiencing its first cold snap of 2024. Snow is falling in the south of England and Wales, and Scotland’s temperatures are plummeting overnight, resulting in the U.K. Health Security Agency issuing amber and yellow health weather alerts across England.” 

 

“These winter conditions pose serious threats to drivers nationwide, as snow and frost can cause motor vehicles to break down and slide across surfaces. As a result, drivers are urged to avoid common mistakes and stay vigilant behind the wheel this week.”    

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