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Are you and your vehicle ready for winter weather driving?

Posted by Sharron Price

The long winter months will shortly be upon us and it’s essential that we are ready and prepared for unforeseen circumstances when driving.

The extended bad weather, rain, hail, fog and snow pose reduced visibility. Driving in strong winds, slush and icy roads can make vehicles harder to control. The winter sun tends to be low and may cause glare.

How can we ensure our safety and that of others around us?

Let’s look at the following:

  • Is your vehicle legal, safe and roadworthy?
  • Are you legal and safe to drive?
  • Tips on driving in winter weather.

Is your vehicle legal, safe and roadworthy?

Vehicle tyres.

Checks on the condition of the tyres should be carried out monthly or before a long journey. Visual checks should include looking for cuts, lumps or bulges and are there any embedded objects in the tyres.

Tyre tread –  the legal tyre tread depth for a car should be at least 1.6 mm across the central three quarters of the tyre around its entire circumference. The tread depth will help to give good grip and the tread pattern will help to force water from between the tyre and the road surface. Tread below the legal standard will mean reduced stopping distances, lower grip and higher risk of aquaplaning.

Tyre pressure –  if found to be too high or low tyre pressure can have an impact of the vehicle’s behaviour. Under-inflated tyres are likely to wear quicker on the outer edges and will be more likely to suffer from impact damage i.e. hitting the kerb. Over-inflated tyres, the driving of the vehicle will feel uncomfortable down to the reduced contact with the road surface, this will also mean there is less grip on the road surface. Tyres will be seen to wear quicker along the central tread. The correct tyre pressure will ensure a comfortable ride, reduced running costs and the lifetime of the tyre will be increased.

Winter tyres – These are designed to cope better with the winter conditions such as ice and snow as well as damp and cold conditions. The tread on normal tyres begins to harden at a temperature of 7 degrees celsius which in turn provides less grip, on winter tyres the specially designed tread pattern gives greater grip in ice or snow.

Tests carried out have found that a vehicle breaking at 60 mph on a wet road at a temperature of 5 degrees celsius stopped five meters shorter when fitted with winter tyres. That is equal to more than one car length.

Driving on illegal tyres can risk up to £2,500 fine and 3 penalty points per tyre


Ensure all ice and snow has been removed from the front and rear screens. Inside mirrors and windows should be de-misted. Remember to remove snow from the roof of the vehicle to prevent the snow from falling forward on to the windscreen, or onto the path of other road users.


Ensure all lights are working and clear of mud and other road debris. It’s important that you can see where you are traveling, and that other road users can see you. Use your fog lights if visibility is poor but remember to turn the fog lights off once the fog has gone, its an offence to drive with your fog lights on in clear conditions.

Wipers rear and windscreen.

Are your wipers in working order and in good condition, free from wear and tear and able to remove water from the screen? Change any blades where smearing is seen.

Battery and radiator.

Ensure batteries are fully charged, the winter weather makes further demands on the battery and it’s charging system. Ensure your vehicle has enough antifreeze coolant and screen wash.

Are we ourselves as the driver legal and safe to drive?

Eye tests and wearing glasses.

Eye tests should be carried out regularly and if you are required to wear glasses for driving and found to be driving without wearing them you could face prosecution this may result in you getting a fine, penalty points on your licence and even disqualification in some instances.

Drink and drug driving.

The smallest amount of alcohol can have an affect on your reaction .

The alcohol limit for driving in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 80milligrams of alcohol per 100 of blood, 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath. December 2014 Scotland lowered its alcohol driving limits to 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood, 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

How many units of alcohol can you have before driving?

The legal drink drive limit cannot be safely converted into a certain number of units, as it depends on several factors such as gender, body mass and how quickly your body absorbs alcohol. As a rule of thumb, two pints of regular-strength lager or two small glasses of wine would put you over the limit.

Driving under the influence of alcohol could result in:

1-year driving ban for first offence, the ban is increased to 3 years if convicted twice in a 10 years period,

an unlimited fine, 6 months in prison.

The penalty for causing death by drink driving  can be a sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment, an fine, a ban from driving for 2 years, an extended driving test before licence is returned. Driving license may be withheld dependant on if you are classed as a high-risk offender.

Drug driving.

Driving under the influence of drugs could result in:

1-year driving ban, unlimited fine, 6 months’ imprisonment, a criminal record. The ban for drug driving shows on your driving licence for 11 years.

The penalty for causing death by drug driving  can be a sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment

However, it wouldn’t end there! Imagine living with the knowledge that you have taken life or caused life changing injuries all for the sake of a drink. This would be something which you, your family and the persons family would have to live with forever and the person themselves should they survive. That would be a lifelong sentence for all involved.

Lanyard wearers beware.

Police have been warning drivers who wear lanyards while driving as it could cause serious injury in the event of a crash where the air bags are deployed. The warning came after two drivers were seriously injured in two separate crashes by objects on their lanyards. One driver’s bowel was perforated after the air bag propelled a set of keys into their stomach, another driver received a punctured lung from their ID card.

Tips on winter driving.

Check the road conditions and look out for black ice. This is a thin layer of ice on the surface of the road surface. It will appear as the colour of the road beneath it.

Pulling away on ice and snow:

  1. Use the highest gears possible to avoid the wheels from spinning.
  2. Select a low gear when driving down hills
  3. Rear wheel drive vehicles may benefit from extra weight in the boot, as it gives a better grip on the road surface.

Skidding on ice.

If you hit ice and start to skid don’t panic.

  1. Keep the steering wheel straight and maintain your speed. Don’t hit the brakes.
  2. Use your gears to slow down, avoid any sudden vehicle movements which could destabilise it.

Things to consider:

  • Ensure that your journey and route is known to someone who you can contact, or they can contact you.
  • Check your planned route is clear and that there are no weather warnings predicted.
  • Drive carefully and slower even if you know the road has been treated, take note of speed limit warnings, allow more time for your journey.
  • Allow plenty of stopping distance, brake as slowly as possible, avoid sudden braking especially on bends.
  • Don’t use your cruise control.
  • Don’t tailgate the vehicle in front, this gives you a false sense of security.
  • You may find an increase in tiredness due to the increase in concentration.
  • Take extra care when overtaking, especially when overtaking snowploughs which will throw out snow either side.
  • Pay attention to roadside message boards which could provide information on traffic and weather warnings. Listen to traffic bulletins.
  • Ensure your breakdown cover is up to date.

Things to carry in your car in case of an emergency or breakdown.

  • Warm clothing, blankets, gloves, hats and scarves. Warm waterproof boots and Hi Viz jackets.
  • Food and drink, ideally a warm drink.
  • Mobile phone charger and power bank.
  • De-icer and ice scrapper.
  • Jump leads.
  • First aid kit.
  • An empty Fuel Can.
  • Shovel and grit.
  • Red warning triangle.

Should you breakdown or get stuck stay with your vehicle, as it will provide shelter and is easy for the emergency services to locate you.

The exception to this rule is if you break down on the motorway, where the advice is to pull onto the hard shoulder and get out of your vehicle, open the passenger door and stand by the vehicle, behind a barrier if possible and call for help. Do not stay inside the vehicle unless you feel threated. It is said that by sitting inside your vehicle while on the side of the motorway you are at risk of being killed within half an hour.


Sharron Price

Sharron is part of the Praxis42 advisory team in the midlands. She has a background in retail quality control/assurance, having previously worked for a large UK jewellery retailer where her involvement and passion in health and safety grew.

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