The onset of winter means shorter days, freezing weather, and icy roads. This makes driving increasingly hazardous; according to data from Admiral (opens a new window), the months from November to February see the highest percentage of severe accidents take place, with a 25% spike of car accident claims in November compared to April.
To minimise the risk to both themselves and their vehicles, drivers will need to take extra care when on – and off – the road.
Pre-driving winter safety checks
Driving during winter requires more preparation than any other time of year. By taking extra precautions to ensure safety before setting off, drivers can reduce their risk of suffering an accident while on the road.
Key points to remember include:
Allow for extra journey time – as roads are more hazardous, other motorists will likely drive slower than usual. When late or in a rush, drivers risk driving too fast and potentially skidding off-road.
Check fuel levels – cars are less efficient during winter (opens a new window), as fuel economy can drop by as much as 24% for short, 3–4-mile trips at -6° compared to 25°. Check before setting off, ensuring there is at least a quarter of a tank to account for unexpected delays and excessive usage.
Plan routes accordingly – main roads are more likely to be cleared and gritted, making them safer to drive on in cold, icy conditions.
Prioritise visibility – for instance, keep de-icing spray and a scraper handy to help keep windows clear. Likewise, drivers should check for snow and dirt on the car’s headlights and brake lights to benefit both themselves and others.
Refer to the car’s handbook – some cars have a winter mode specifically to help drivers in winter conditions. There may also be some tips from the manufacturer on safety preparation for winter driving.
Safe driving on winter roads
Keep a constant speed – changing gear and slowing down can be dangerous in slippery conditions, particularly if driving up or downhill.
Maintain safe distances – a lack of grip may lock the wheels up under breaking and initiate skidding. By keeping a gap to the car in front, drivers can minimise the risk of a collision.
Choose the right tyres – check the tread, as all tyres should have at least 3mm for winter. Otherwise, install all-season tyres to ensure maximum grip no matter the weather.
Use fog lights appropriately – when left on, fog lights can reduce other driver’s visibility significantly. Use them when there are no cars around and the road is poorly lit.
Be mindful of others – when road conditions are poor, it is even more important to show courtesy to other road users, cyclists, and pedestrians.
Storing a car during the winter
Winter driving means more risks on the road. But safety doesn’t end with the journey. As the weather continues to plummet, more cars will be stored in garages. This presents challenges of its own, such as the need for proper vehicle maintenance to avoid accidents or damage to vehicles.
Tips for storing a vehicle in the winter include:
Clean your car thoroughly – any lingering dirt can eat away at paint or chrome work and will need to be washed away. Towel drying is also important to prevent the build-up of water inside rubber seals and trims.
Protect against rodents – these and other wildlife may seek a warm and dry place to stay during colder months. If they gain access to a vehicle, they can cause damage to wiring and any soft surface or material. Any access points to the garage should be identified and appropriately sealed.
Be wary of floods – wet and snowy weather can increase the risk of water damage to cars, particularly if garages are located underground. Have sandbags on hand, or ensure nearby drains are clear to reduce the likelihood of damage to a vehicle.
Reduce fire risks –garages are often used to store a variety of household items, some of which can be highly flammable. To ensure vehicles are protected from fire damage, owners should take precautionary measures, such as keeping flammable chemicals in a metal cabinet, ensuring fuel is in its correct container, and securing a fire extinguisher to a mounted bracket.
More information on storing vehicles in garages, such as protecting against theft, can be found here (opens a new window).
For further information, please visit our Private Clients (opens a new window) page or contact:
Andy Couper, Vice President, Lockton Performance