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Driving in Bad Weather

When you drive, you’re in charge of a fast-moving chunk of metal that can do a lot of damage to you and other people. That’s why you have a particular responsibility to do everything you can to keep safe and protect the people around you when driving in bad weather.

Driving in the winter is very different than in other times of the year. Adverse weather and longer periods of darkness makes driving more hazardous. Sometimes, conditions can be extreme, as we have found out over recent winters, with prolonged periods of heavy snow and floods. This means that we need to adapt the way we drive.

Different weather conditions create different hazards throughout the winter and in different areas of the country at different times. A single journey may take us into very different weather, road and traffic conditions, so we need to be prepared for each one.


In the year ending June 2015, there were 1,700 reported road fatalities, a 2 per cent decrease from 1,742 in the previous year.

The number of killed or seriously injured casualties (KSIs) decreased by 7 per cent to 22,830 and the total number of casualties decreased by 7 per cent to 180,500. It is likely that differences in the weather conditions between the year ending June 2015 and the previous year played a part in the decreases in casualties.

It is also notable that motor vehicle traffic increased by 2.3 per cent over the same period.

Stay Safe

Employers and employees have moral and legal duties to ensure that driving at work is undertaken in a safe manner, vehicles are suitable and drivers are competent.

To ensure that you don’t get caught out when severe weather strikes, we have produced a Top Ten of safety precautions to ensure that you are safe on the roads during winter months.

Check your tyres – they are your only contact with the road. Tyres should be at least the minimum legal tread depth of 1.6mm but need to be changed before they get this worn. Tyres need to be to the correct tyre pressure to give the motorist the best chance in extreme conditions.

Use your lights. As we come into the winter months, motorists are advised to use dipped headlights during the day so you are easily seen. Headlights and taillights should be in working order.

Understand your brakes. Check your car manual and find out if your vehicle has safety assist technology such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC) or Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS). Learn how these technologies can assist your driving in harsh weather conditions.

Safe distance. It takes longer to stop a car during the winter weather so slow down and allow extra distance between you and the car in front.

Make sure you can clearly see. All too often motorists do not de-mist or de-ice windows and mirrors which can compromise visibility. This winter, ensure windows and mirrors are clear, and carry a de-icer and screen scraper. Do not use boiling water as this can crack the windscreen.

Beware of “black ice”. Black ice is one of winter’s biggest hazards as it is difficult to see. Watch out for sheltered / shaded areas on roads, under trees and near high walls.

Be prepared. During these winter months it is advised that motorists carry a number of essentials in the boot of their car:

High visibility vest; Spare fuel; Appropriate footwear in case you need to leave your vehicle e.g. boots; A hazard warning triangle; Spare wheel – check that your spare wheel is in good condition and is fully inflated. Some cars may have an inflation repair kit instead of a spare wheel. Make sure that you know how to use it; Tow rope; A shovel; De-icing equipment (for glass and door locks); Spare bulbs; First aid kit; A fire extinguisher; A working torch; A car blanket, additional clothing, some food and water.

In the event of a breakdown. Drivers need to ensure their vehicle is well off the road so as not to obstruct other vehicles. The driver should also put on their hazard warning lights. If the vehicle breaks down on the motorway, pull in as far as you can, alerting traffic behind you with hazard lights. The driver should leave their vehicle, get behind the barrier (on the embankment) and call for assistance on their mobile phone or roadside telephone.

Keep up to date. Listen to local weather and traffic reports. Pay heed to the weather warnings alerting drivers of unsafe and dangerous driving conditions.

Avoid driving. If possible, avoid driving in snow and other treacherous conditions. Never set off when it’s snowing heavily or if it’s forecast to snow, and avoid driving if you possibly can in other bad conditions like fog, heavy rain and ice. Consider alternatives like public transport. If you drive to work, speak to your employer in advance about home-working arrangements when the weather is bad, especially if you live in a rural area prone to flooding or snow.

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