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Is your car safe and legal to drive in bad weather?

As we approach the end of winter, it’s important to make sure you don’t get caught out with the unpredictable weather of the UK. If your vehicle isn’t fit to drive you run the risk of prosecution, and the bad weather conditions just increase the chances of an accident.

So what can you do to make sure you’re safe and within the law?

Check your tyres

The tyre tread depth makes a big difference to the grip on the road, especially in wet, snowy or icy conditions.

Whilst the legal limit for your tyres is 1.6mm, the minimum recommended limit is 3mm. On wet roads the difference in stopping distance from the minimum to the legal limit is around 2 car lengths, which could mean the difference between a narrow miss and an accident.

If your tyres are below the legal limit, you can be fined up to £2,500 and given 3 penalty points if caught, and the risk of having an accident that could have been avoided is much higher.

Also, make sure that your tyres are at the right pressure for your vehicle. You can often find this on the side of the tyre itself, or in your vehicle handbook. If in doubt, check with the manufacturer.

Don’t be tempted to reduce tyre pressure in snow. Not only is this illegal, but it only makes the car more unstable and increases the risk of an accident or loss of control.

Top up your windscreen wash

At this time of year any driver knows it’s difficult to keep your vehicles clean. The salt and grit on the roads, combined with the wet conditions, means you regularly need to be using your wipers and screen wash to keep clear visibility.

Poor visibility not only means you could cause a serious accident, but could affect your ability to drive the car safely.

Driving with a dirty windscreen can carry penalties of up to £2,500, 3 penalty points and even disqualification, so don’t wait for your windscreen wash to run out before you top it up.

Protect your eyes

Being dazzled by the low sun during the winter months is always a problem. Without proper protection for your eyes from the sun you could leave yourself open to prosecution for careless driving.

It is your responsibility as a driver to make sure that you can drive safely, even if the sun is low in the sky. Make sure you carry a pair of sunglasses in the car with you, and keep your windscreens clear at all times.

Plan your route

We have come to rely on Sat Nav to get us from A to B, but unfortunately it doesn’t always pick the best route. The shortest route it picks may well take you through areas that haven’t been gritted and are dangerous in icy or snowy weather.

Also, weather conditions can change quickly and result in parts of your route becoming block or close, especially over highland areas.

So don’t put yourself in the position of trying to find a new route whilst you are driving. This will only make you more likely to lose concentration in weather conditions where you need to be fully alert, and this lack of concentration could result in a careless driving charge, 3-11 penalty points, and a fine.

Remove snow and ice from your vehicle

When you are in a rush to get to work, and there is frost and snow on your vehicle, it’s tempting to clear the driver side of the windscreen and let the heater do the rest as you drive off.

Unless all of your windows are clear, and any lying snow has been removed from the top of your vehicle, you’re driving illegally. Not only is your vision impaired, but snow or ice that falls away from your vehicle is a hazard to other road users and could cause an accident.

Failing to remove snow and ice from your car could result in a careless or dangerous driving charge, resulting in a fine and fixed penalty points.

Invest in winter tyres

Depending where you live in the UK, winter tyres might be an important safety measure for your car. Winter tyres use a different tyre compound and different tread patterns, meaning that the rubber doesn’t lose its grip and

Whilst winter tyres aren’t a legal requirement in the UK, they might be a good idea for higher altitude and more rural areas where the weather is more extreme for longer periods of time.

If you intend to drive abroad during the winter, check the law for use of snow tyres and snow chains in the countries along your route.

Don’t drink alcohol

We always take the position that if you are driving, it’s best not to drink any alcohol at all. In poor driving conditions this is even more important.

Not only is this affecting your ability to drive, but if you could leave yourself open to prosecution for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI) if you were to have an accident or drive without proper care and attention.

You can be prosecuted for drink driving,  even if you are under the legal limit.

During the winter months when the weather is unpredictable, the chances of being involved in an accident are much higher. Even if an accident wasn’t your fault, if it can be proved that you were negligent or your car wasn’t fit to be on the road in the eyes of the law, you leave yourself open to severe penalties. So before you set off in your vehicle, make sure you understand the law, and make sure your vehicle is safe.

27/02/2015 11:31