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1 in 10 drivers don’t know what winter tyres are

Motorists' poor knowledge around winter tyres

Research reveals many motorists haven’t heard of winter and all-weather tyres, despite their potentially huge benefits for traction and grip in colder weather.

The study by Goodyear questioned 2,000 UK motorists in December 2019. It revealed that nine percent didn’t know winter tyres exist. And more than one in five (22 percent) didn’t know what all-season tyres were. Also, 48 percent said weren’t aware what effect winter and all-season tyres have.

Colder weather tyres work best when temperatures dip below seven degrees centigrade. 

Motorists' poor knowledge around winter tyres

Fewer than one in five (15 percent) said they’d ever bought winter tyres, while 47 percent of those (nearly 150 people), said they hadn’t because they didn’t think UK weather necessitated them. Three in five (59 percent) said they’d only consider them if heavy snow became a sure thing, while 52 percent said icy roads would sway them.

Looking at the scenarios people were most were afraid of, 38 percent said they were most concerned about losing control in cold conditions. A total of 17 percent were most worried about being stranded – a scenario winter tyres could very well prevent.

Drivers said they’d sooner upgrade their headlights (22 percent) or fit new windscreen wipers (43 percent) in preparation for winter conditions.

Motorists' poor knowledge around winter tyres

“Winter and indeed all-season tyres will always provide better performance than summer tyres when temperatures drop,” said Andy Marfleet from Goodyear.

“The reason for this is that the tread compound used in summer tyres will turn rigid in lower temperatures and won’t grip the roads as effectively. Winter tyres and all-season tyres are made with a tread compound that will stay flexible in colder weather.

“It’s worrying that so many drivers either don’t know or don’t appreciate the impact that using the right set of tyres can have on their safety and the performance of their vehicle during the winter.”

Top 10 tips for safer winter driving

Top tips for safer winter driving

Following what felt like weeks of wet weather, the country is experiencing a cold snap. The mornings are alive with the sound of ice scrapers on windscreens and traffic reports warning of congestion caused by ice-related accidents.

The combination of shorter daylight hours, heavy rain, snow, ice and low sun creates hazardous winter driving conditions from October to March. It’s important to prepare yourself – and your car – for winter driving.

Today, LeasePlan UK has prepared a guide to safer winter driving. Heed the advice and you and your car will have a greater chance of making it through to the spring in one piece.

Chris Black, commercial director at LeasePlan UK, said: “The data published today is a crucial reminder of how important it is to take precautions when driving on the roads this winter. While we can’t always predict the weather, there are a number of safety measures we can take to lessen the chances of an incident occurring.”

Before you set off

de-icing windscreens

According to LeasePlan, there are seven things to check before driving in the winter, especially if you’re travelling a long distance. These can be summarised as follows:

  • Battery: The car battery needs to work harder during the winter, so ensure that it is regularly serviced.
  • Tyres: Make sure there is at least 2mm tread depth on the tyres. Consider investing in winter tyres, which are effective in cold weather, not just in the snow.
  • Cooling system: Add anti-freeze into your cooling system, but remember to use the appropriate strength of formula.
  • Wipers and washers: Use high-strength screen wash and replace damaged or faulty wiper blades. Never use the wipers to clear ice from the windscreen.
  • Defrosting: Never use boiling water to clear ice from the windscreen. Instead, use an ice scraper and/or a can of de-icer. Remember to clear all areas of glass, including the mirrors and lights.
  • Lights: Check that all lights are working, including fog and reversing lights.
  • Roof and windows: Clear all snow and ice from the roof and windows before setting off.

Ten 10 tips for safer winter driving

Caution freezing conditions

High gear, low revs

Use a higher gear when setting off as this will give you greater control of the vehicle. In slippery conditions, avoid using first gear if possible.

Take your time

When driving in snow, avoid high revs, but don’t drive so slowly that you risk losing momentum. Keep going, as this could be the difference between making it home or getting stuck in the snow. Remember, if you’re stuck, the chances are other drivers will be stuck, so you’re unlikely to receive help.

Skidding

If you get into a skid in snow or on ice, take your feet off the pedals and steer to safety. Only use the brakes when you’re unable to steer away from trouble.

Braking

Triple the braking distance and maintain a sufficient gap between you and the car in front. Any sudden movements – such as erratic steering or braking – are likely to result in the car careering out of control. Use a lower gear than normal and gently apply the brakes.

Roads

Keep to the main A-roads and motorways when possible, as these are more likely to have been treated with salt and cleared by a steady flow of traffic. There’s also a greater chance of help arriving should you breakdown or get stuck in a snow drift. Avoid unlit rural roads, as there’s a risk that you or your stranded car could be hit by another vehicle. It’s also worth remembering when you last passed a house or shop, in case you need to find help.

Visibility

Use dipped headlights in the snow, but remember to turn them off when conditions improve.

Flood water in Worcestershire

Potholes

Potholes are more likely to appear after freezing temperatures or a flood. It will be difficult to spot them at night, in the snow or when the roads are covered in water, so drive with extra care. Not only can a pothole cause damage to a car’s wheels, suspension or steering, you may also lose control of the vehicle.

Fog

In foggy conditions, reduce your speed but don’t slam on the brakes. Keep your distance to the car in front and don’t rely on them to guide you through a dense fog patch. Use dipped headlights and fog lights, but remember to switch them off when conditions improve. It’s also important to remember that LED daytime running lights are unsuitable for driving in fog or at night. If you have automatic lights, make sure they’re on when driving in fog.

Flood water

Avoid driving directly through the deepest water, which is normally near the kerb. Stick to the centre of the road, but look out for debris and potholes beneath the surface. If in doubt, don’t drive through flood water – seek an alternative route. If you do drive through, take your time, avoid sudden acceleration and test your brakes when you’ve made it through the water.

Be prepared for winter driving

If extreme weather is forecast, it’s worth packing for every eventuality. Should the worst happen, it’ll take longer for the breakdown service or emergency vehicle to reach you, so you could be left in the car or stranded by the road for a prolonged period of time. Before you set off in the snow, pack some warm clothing, blankets and some basic nourishment.

While a winter driving safety pack might seem extreme, you’ll be glad of it should you run into trouble. We’d recommend carrying the following items: high visibility jacket, torch, warning triangle, spare tyre, first aid kit, de-icer, screen wash, jump leads and sunglasses (for low winter sun).

For more hints and tips – including more winter driving information – visit the Motoring Research advice section.

Revealed: the most dangerous day in December to drive

The most dangerous December day to drive

Analysis of more than five billion miles of driving data reveals which day in December you are most likely to have an accident. Forget Friday the 13th (tomorrow), it’s the actually following Monday you need to be extra careful.

InsureTheBox looked at driving miles on its telemetry systems to determine which days are the most dangerous. The 16th of December came back with the second-highest number of accidents for the entire year.

Daylight is in short supply on this date, while weather conditions are often treacherous.

The most dangerous December day to drive

“Winter driving conditions can be a challenge for even the most experienced drivers – and for new drivers, black ice, snow or heavy rain can be especially daunting,” said Gary Stewart, service manager at InsureTheBox. 

“They can be caught out by black ice on an ungritted road or temporarily blinded by the glare of the bright winter sun. Now we are well and truly in the winter months, it’s important, particularly for new drivers, to know how to react in different weather conditions and to spot the potential hazards.”

Stewart goes on to highlight various hazards winter roads can present, such as ice on roads preserved by overhead tree shade, plus greater stopping distances more generally.

The most dangerous December day to drive

“By taking time to understand the risks and adjust their behaviour, young drivers can stay safe this winter,” he concluded.

Make sure your lights work and are clear of grime, and that your tyres, wipers and brakes are in good condition. Take your time and reduce your speed.

Reduce the possibility of breakdowns by making sure your car is topped up with fluids. An emergency kit, including warm clothing, blankets, food and drink are good things to have on board, should the worst happen.

Winter driving: how to cut costs and avoid fines

Fines and costs of winter driving

Driving in winter is treacherous and challenging, and it can also impact your wallet. Here is our guide to staying safe and avoiding unnecessary costs.

It’s not nice having a car covered in winter grime and grit, but did you know it could cost you money? And no, we don’t simply mean the cleaning bill. 

Apart from the safety issues, the police can pull you over and issue a penalty notice of up to £1,000 if your lights, indicators or reflectors are too dirty, or indeed snow-covered.

Fines and costs of winter driving

The Highway Code states: ‘lights, indicators, reflectors, and number plates MUST be kept clean and clear’.

“Driving with dirty lights is a serious safety issue which can be corrected in a matter of seconds,” adds IAM RoadSmart spokesman Rodney Kumar.

“Why take the chance? Check, clear and clean before you go.”

Fines and costs of winter driving

Needless to say, you need to check regularly that all of your lights are fully functioning, including high- and low-beam, daytime running lights, foglights, indicators and reversing lights. During the thick of winter, if you’re a nine-to-five worker, it’s impossible you’ll use your car in the week without needing lights.

Iced-over windows and windscreens, while being extremely dangerous, can also land you with a fine. All too many drivers forgo properly clearing away ice in the morning because they’re in a rush. Numberplates must also be legible if you want to avoid a hefty penalty. 

Potholes and broken roadsPotholes and speed bumps damage one in four cars

Keep an eye on the roads, too. It only takes a few sharp frosts to leave tarmac broken. 

If you’re lucky, a pothole will knock your wheel alignment out a little bit. At worst, it could puncture a tyre, damage a wheel or break suspension components.

A recent survey found 25 percent of drivers had suffered damage to their car as a result of a pothole or speed hump. And an unlucky eight percent of those claimed the damage cost more than £250.

Fines and costs of winter driving

Your council won’t always pick up the bill either. Of the 39 percent who complained about the damage to their local authority, more than half said they were ignored.

Needless to say, the faster you’re going, the more damage a pothole could cause. Keep your speed conservative for the best chance of avoiding trouble.

Fines and costs of winter driving

The colder months of the year also mean salty roads. When the frosts descend, the gritters won’t be too far behind, and what they drop is not good for your car.

In the short term, stone-chipped paint and chipped windscreens are an annoyance. In the longer term, the film of salty grime will start to eat away at your car’s bodywork.

Keeping your distance from vehicles in front is your best chance of avoiding damage to your car.

British drivers unprepared for winter breakdowns

Winter breakdowns RAC

A survey of 2,000 UK car owners reveals many are hopelessly unprepared for a winter breakdown. That’s despite 62 percent having broken down at some point.

The research by NFU Mutual, published by the RAC, found that drivers are more likely to carry an umbrella (50 percent) in their car, than basic safety equipment. They’re also far more likely to keep chewing gum and mints on board (30 percent) than a reflective triangle (26 percent), jump leads (23 percent) or a high-vis jacket (24 percent).

Just one in five drivers (21 percent) keep a blanket and warm clothes in their car. And sunglasses are more commonly kept (52 percent) than a breakdown service number (43 percent).

More than a third of drivers don’t have a spare tyre on board, while 50 percent don’t know how to change a tyre. Yet wheel changes are the most common cause of breakdowns.

Remember your winter FORCESWinter breakdowns RAC

The RAC has a one-stop acronym for fending off winter breakdowns: FORCES. It stands for Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics (especially lights) and Screenwash.

Make sure that all of the above are at the correct level (fluids), are in good condition (tyres, electrics), or are working correctly (electrics).

What you should carry in winterWinter breakdowns RAC

NFU Mutual has a list of winter driving essentials. It recommends you carry the below items, preferably in a waterproof bag:

  • Warm blankets, clothes and waterproofs
  • Long-lasting food and water
  • Red reflective warning triangles
  • High-visibility jackets
  • Jump leads
  • Torch
  • Sunglasses
  • A spare tyre and jack
  • Road atlas
  • Breakdown number on paper
  • In-car charger
  • First aid kit
  • Ice scraper/de-icing kit

Winter breakdowns RAC

“While brollies might be among the essentials for daily British life, don’t forget the safety fundamentals such as a torch, blanket and a spare tyre to prepare for a breakdown,” said Aleks Corr of NFU Mutual.

“Keeping basic safety equipment in your car could spell the difference between a minor inconvenience and a traumatically freezing and potentially hazardous family event.

“While technology can be a real lifeline, don’t completely rely on it. Poor signal or a low battery may mean it lets you down when you need it most. Always keep an in-car charger handy, but also equip yourself with analogue alternatives including a road atlas and your breakdown service number written on a piece of paper. Familiarise yourself with safety tips and what to do in an incident, such as how to park safely or how to find an SOS phone on the motorway.”

Vauxhall offers £15 winter check for any car

Vauxhall all makes winter check-up

Vauxhall is offering a winter check-up for £15, and you don’t need to drive a Vauxhall to get one. All makes are included, from Ford to Ferrari, or Lexus to Lamborghini.

It will consist of a 29-point visual inspection from a Vauxhall technician, to make sure your car is ready for the colder weather.

They will check the battery, lights and heating. They will also look for ways that potholes could have damaged your car, including the tyres, wheels and suspension.

Vauxhall all makes winter check-up

Six fluids – screen wash, anti-freeze, oil, brake fluid, clutch fluid and power steering fluid – will also be checked and topped up if need be.

You’ll pay a maximum of £15 for the checkover, although there is a benefit to being a Vauxhall driver and member of the service club. They pay just £10.

Vauxhall all makes winter check-up

Winter is coming: prepare your car for the cold

Winter driving tips advice

Wintertime can be treacherous for drivers, as the darkness prevails over daylight, roads get slippery and visibility drops. It warrants our taking of certain preparations and precautions, ready to take on the more precarious conditions that are expected to arrive in the weeks ahead.

“After long periods of heavy rain, forecasters are warning of an early Arctic plunge, with freezing temperatures and the risk of icy roads as the week progresses,” said GEM road safety officer Neil Worth.

“Our message is clear: don’t let the weather catch you by surprise. Take a few simple preventative maintenance steps to give yourself the best chance of ensuring you won’t be stranded out in the cold.”

Winter driving tips advice

So, what can you do to make your car safer in winter? Let’s get into it.

Lights

Darker dingier driving requires lighting that’s as good as it can be. Keep your lenses clean, especially in conditions where grit and grime can quickly fog them over. It goes without saying, you’ll want to make sure they’re all working, too.

Tyres

It’s become a cliche at this point to say that tyres are the only part of a car that touches the road, but it bears remembering. They’re all that stands between you and oncoming traffic and the rest of the world around you. Make sure they’ve got tread, and that they’re in good fettle otherwise. That means no gashes, cracks, bulges or flat spots. Maybe even consider getting a set of winter tyres. They can be better at tackling snowy weather than four-wheel-drive…

Brakes

Not on GEM’s list but an obvious one all the same. Make sure your brakes are at the top of their game. If there are any anti-lock braking issues, get them sorted. 

Winter driving tips advice

Power

Further from the lights point, electrics in general can suffer in winter months. Make sure your battery and alternator are healthy, or the cold will easily get to them. Doing so, if you’re not mechanically inclined, is the matter of a ten minute Halfords visit. 

Cooling

Cooling? In winter? Sounds an odd thing to need to check during colder weather. Well, you should. If your cooling system doesn’t have the right amount of anti-freeze in it, you risk a radiator riddled with ice. Freezing can be fatal for your cooling system, so while you’re getting your battery checked, make sure you’re topped up with anti-freeze. While you’re there, your washer fluid could probably use a top-up too.

Wipers

Your wipers might have gathered dust throughout the toasty summer months, but in a matter of weeks, they’re brought back to the coal face. Drizzly weather and grimy roads require wipers on the top of their game. Get them checked, and swap them out if need be.

winter driving cabin conditions

So assuming your car is ready for the winter, there’s a lot that can be said for keeping cabin conditions in perfect order before you’ve even set off.

According to Seat, certain cabin conditions can leave you in a similar state to drive as the Scottish drink-drive limit of alcohol. Let’s dive in…

What is meant by cabin conditions?

winter driving cabin conditions

Temperature is the big focus with Seat’s top tips. It’s not just a case of setting the numbers and heading off: how you get to your desired temperature and what you set that number to is of the utmost importance.

Putting the blowers on, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t cost you any more either. It’s actually good for your car to get some heat blowing into the cabin – it’s another path via which the cooling system can get rid of engine heat.

An obvious one, too, is window clarity. Seat specifies mist but it goes without saying that you don’t want ice obscuring any of your windows. Get that air conditioning blasting the windscreen as you set off in cold conditions. That will help clear mist that can fast accumulate if it hasn’t already.

What are the best cabin conditions for driving?

winter driving cabin conditions

Seat’s recommendation is a temperature of no more than 21.5ºC. Yes, that specific… How do you get to that? Getting your face blasted with hot air isn’t recommended.

Instead, Seat development and aerodynamics engineer Maria Garcia recommends an auto-warm setting with the air coming out at your feet. That way, by the time it gets into upper areas of the cabin it’s cooled slightly and is more an ambient temperature than a gust coming from the car.

It feels more natural, is more comfortable and is the best way of staying both warm and alert.

“It provides a balanced heat distribution: half of the warm air comes out at around 40 °C near your feet and cools by the time it reaches your upper body and head, keeping you more alert at the wheel,” says Garcia.

The worrying part is just how much of an effect driving with an overly warm cabin can have.

“Driving with an interior temperature of 35°C is similar to having a blood alcohol level of 0.5 g/l.”

How else can I get warm safely in my car?

winter driving cabin conditions

Car seat warmers have been around for some time now, such that many cars will come fitted with them. In general, they’re the quickest way of getting warm as you get into a cold car. It’s advised you carefully regulate it, however. Once you’re warm, if your seat heaters have different settings, lower them. Excessive seat heater use isn’t advised.

Dress appropriately too. That doesn’t mean woolly hats and mountaineering gear. Quite the opposite, in fact, as Seat advises against full winter garbs given that they limit your movement. Gloves, in particular, will do the dexterity of your hands no favours.

winter driving cabin conditions