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Quick Lane

Winter is coming, and although the UK is no stranger to adverse weather conditions, the season always brings with it a host of driving myths – for example: letting the air of your tyres will help you drive on snow, you can drive how you like if you’ve got all-wheel-drive, and you’re protected by insurance if it’s the ice’s fault…

The list is endless, and although some of these might sound amusing, getting it wrong can have serious consequences for your safety...and wallet!

To clear things up, we’ve dispelled some of the most common myths to stop you committing on of these seven most common winter driving sins:

1. Driving with excess snow/ice on your car

It’s something we’ve all bore witness to at some stage of our driving career: drivers crawling along the roads with piled-up snow on their roof and only a small slot of windscreen visible through the ice. And while, legally, snow/ice only needs to be cleared off your vehicle’s windows, it should go without saying that its unsafe to leave your mirrors, bonnet and roof covered in snow! 

And remember that all of the windscreen and windows need to be clear – police have the right to stop and fine you £60 if any of the screen is obstructed. What’s more, if snow falls off your roof and causes an accident, you could be fined for driving without due consideration.

2. Lowering your tyre pressures 

The myth that reducing the air pressure in your tyres will increase traction when driving on snow and ice is an especially dangerous one, as it could be incredibly hazardous and illegal. Tyre pressures should be maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommended pressures, and around the circumference of the tyre.

3. Leaving your car running to warm up your engine 

A surprising number of drivers still think they need to let their car’s engine warm up for a few minutes when it’s chilly outside – in fact, it’s more like 30 seconds! And while it may be nice to jump into a vehicle that’s already warm and has a defrosted windscreen, leaving your engine running before driving it in cold conditions can be a risky business! 

If your car is stolen while you let it warm up, most insurance companies won’t cover you. You can also be fined – leaving the engine idling is an offence under Rule 123 of The Highway Code and is punishable with a £20 fine.

4. Not driving to the conditions

Some drivers believe that insurers will always pay out if you crash on ice because it’s not your fault. This is a dangerous myth – remember that you’re responsible for your actions behind the wheel. In cases where other road users aren’t affected, you could find yourself with an ‘at fault’ claim, and if another driver is involved, all the relevant circumstances will be considered as usual. 

Make sure you try to anticipate ice and black ice, which commonly forms when the temperature is at or just above 0°C. It’s also important to alter your driving style to winter conditions:

•         Manoeuvre gently as ice isn’t always visible and stopping distances can be up to 10 times longer in icy conditions.
•         Leave a safe gap behind the vehicle in front.
•         Avoid harsh braking and acceleration.

5. Not checking your car insurance 

Did know that your car insurance could be invalidated if you fit winter tyres without telling your provider? Despite being more tailored to colder conditions, some insurance providers may consider winter tyres to be a modification, which should be declared and usually increase the cost of your premium.

That said, more and more insurance companies are recognising the benefits of winter tyres, and the majority have signed up to the Association of British Insurers Winter Tyres Motor Insurance Commitment, which permits drivers to use winter tyres without notifying the insurance company. So, before swapping your tyres, simply check with your provider to see if they’ve signed up.

6. Getting complacent

Another myth is that all-wheel-drive makes you invincible, regardless of the conditions. Granted, AWD can give you more traction and helps you accelerate – but it won’t stop you any faster, especially if your tyres are worn. As with sin number 4, it’s all about how you drive!

7. Not being prepared

While it’s not law to carry a winter emergency kit in your car, it would be sensible to have appropriate kit in the car. Read our blog, Top Five Winter Driving Tips, for a handy list of what to take when heading out in the winter, including warm clothing, a first-aid kit, a torch, a high-vis vest and a fully-charged mobile phone.

And, while it’s not illegal to wear wellies or winter boots when driving, Rule 97 of the Highway Code says motorists should ensure “clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner”. It could be said that wellies (especially snow-covered ones) can make controlling the pedals trickier, so it’s best to wear sensible driving footwear, and carry a pair of wellies or boots in the car.

Beat the winter blues with Quick Lane

Here at Quick Lane we want to help you take on winter driving safely, and with confidence. Did you know that we offer a free Quality Assurance Check with every visit? This thorough visual inspection includes £20 worth of checks, but it’s completely free – after all, it shouldn’t cost you anything to make sure your car is in tip-top condition!

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