Winter driving facts and figures

Wed Nov 24 2021

The summer months have come to an end now, and the more extreme winter weather is creeping in. The winter conditions will massively affect the way you drive, with the potential wet, or icy conditions, as well as more driving in darkness, there are many driving challenges you will face in the winter months. 

The UK weather is unpredictable all year round, even more so in winter, so the best thing you can do is be prepared. It is useful, and safer to know which checks you need to make before driving as well as what equipment you may need. 

Before we go into some tips for driving in the colder months, we will take a look at some statistics regarding winter driving.

Winter driving statistics

  • Glasgow is the city where drivers are the most affected by the winter conditions. 38% of accidents that occurred during the winter months are due to snow, ice or excessive rain. 
  • On average more than 20% of all road accidents occur on icy or wet roads. This can differ from city to city as this figure is as high as 30% in Manchester for example. 
  • You are approximately 20% more likely to be involved in an accident during wintry conditions.
  • Driving on snow covered roads can take your car up to ten times longer to stop completely. 
  • Weather related car accidents cause more fatalities annually than large scale weather disasters. 

Winter driving myths

There are many things you may have heard about winter driving, some may be true but some are false. We take a look at some of these ‘facts’ you may have heard and we will reveal whether they are true or false. 

It is illegal to drive wearing wellies

False

It states in the Highway Code that ‘drivers must ensure that clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner.’ This does mean that it is down to you to determine whether you can safely control the pedals in the footwear of your choice, so you do need to make a sensible decision on this, but it is certainly not illegal to wear wellies specifically. 

You need to clear snow off your roof

True

Well, it is true to an extent, as there isn’t a law that states you must not have snow on your car roof, but technically you could be caught out for ‘driving without due consideration.’ Snow on your roof may not affect your visibility but it can affect the drivers behind you as chunks of snow can fall off. It is also possible for the snow to fall onto your windscreen whilst driving. The best thing to do before you set off is to just clear the roof of your car of any snow. It will take less than a minute of your time and it is safer for you and fellow motorists. 

You can be fined for leaving your car to run unattended

True

Many people believe that in the cold winter months you will need to warm your car up before driving it. Maybe you switch on the engine and go back inside to make yourself a coffee while you wait. What you may not be aware of is that you could be breaking the law by doing this. The Highway Code clearly states that ‘You must not leave a vehicle's engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.’ You can receive a fine for doing this of up to £20 but this can be as high as £80 in some areas of London. Of course as the law states you cannot do this on a public road you can do this for example on a private road such as your own driveway. The reason you shouldn’t be leaving your car's engine on while stationary is that it will emit fumes, and cars release almost twice the emissions when stationary. It is also true that your insurance company could refuse to pay out if your car is stolen while you leave your engine on unattended. 

You have to have a emergency winter kit in your car by law

False

Carrying an emergency winter kit in your car is highly advised but it is not required by law. Due to potential treacherous conditions on the road it is of course possible that you could end up stranded at the side of the road. This will be a much less pleasant experience if you do not have a winter kit available. It is recommended that you carry the following;

  • High-vis vest
  • Shovel
  • Emergency breakdown triangle 
  • Warm change of clothing
  • Fully charged mobile phone. 

You may also decide to bring some food and hot drinks in a flask. So while it may not be a legal issue you may regret not bringing along a winter kit if the worst does happen. 

Fuel economy is worse in the winter

True

In the cold weather engines will require more fuel to function at a high level, meaning there is a decrease in fuel efficiency. You will probably find that during the winter your tank of fuel will not get you as far as it does in the summer months. 

Winter driving tips

Before you set off there are a few things you should remember and be prepared for;

  • Allow extra time for journeys
  • Pre-plan the route to your destination. Use roads more likely to be gritted. 
  • Wear dry and comfortable shoes. 
  • Check you have enough fuel. Try and keep your tank at least a quarter full. 
  • Clear all windows using a scraper. 
  • Check your tyres are in good condition.  
  • Keep your distance from the cars in front of you as your braking won't be as effective.