The UK has developed a reputation for being horrendously unprepared when it comes to winter weather. The perennial issue of snow-induced chaos seems to grip the nation with fear and surprise on a regular basis. Roads, railways, airports, schools and businesses are all affected by the occurrence of adverse weather. The RSA insurance group estimated that the snowy weather of January 2013 cost the UK economy around £470 million per day.
With countries such as Canada and Sweden coping fine with their far colder, snowier winter climes, many people ask why the UK is so affected by just a sprinkling of the white stuff. Scandinavian countries are able to accurately predict, almost to the week, when their snow is going to arrive. In contrast to this, the UK is left uncertain as to whether wintery weather is going to arrive, in which month it will come, and how severe it will be. The fundamental problem is that being prepared costs money, and where the benefit is so irregularly utilised, it is not worth paying out ‘just in case’.
Department for Transport statistics indicate that hazardous wintery conditions were at least in part to blame for 6,217 UK road traffic accidents in 2012. In Sweden, winter tyres are fitted to cars by law, local authorities are obliged to keep roads clear, and snow chains are put into use in particularly severe circumstances. But with a set of winter tyres looking to cost up to £500, it is unlikely that they could ever be enforced upon UK motorists.Even though as a country we cannot be as primed for snowy weather as might be desired, there are certain steps we can take as individuals to stay safe, in particular on the roads.
- Both RoSPA and the RAC highlight the importance to carry out simple car checks in the lead up to winter. Check your lights, tyres, wiper blades and battery. Fluid levels should be inspected and topped up. Stock up on de-icer
- Carry a simple emergency kit with you when driving in potentially treacherous conditions. RoSPA recommends that this should include: tow rope; shovel; boots and clothes; blanket; torch; hazard triangle; first aid kit; emergency rations; mobile phone.
- Check local weather and travel reports. If conditions are risky, consider whether your journey is really necessary. Let someone know where you are going and when you hope to arrive.
Driving in snow and ice:
- Accelerate softly using low revs. Change up to a higher gear as soon as possible to prevent wheel slip.
- Breaking in snow and ice can be particularly dangerous. Use a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to drop and apply the brakes gently.
- Leave a large gap between you and the car in front. The RAC recommends that in snowy conditions, ten times the normal spacing between cars should be used.
- Steer into any skids that you may encounter.
- Don’t drive in the wheel tracks of other vehicles. These could be more slippery than fresh snow.
- Keep your speed down and take your time.
Unfortunately no matter how much care you take on the winter roads, it is impossible to ensure that other road users are using a similar level of common sense when driving in snow and ice. If you are involved in a winter road traffic accident then it can be tricky to prove where the blame lies and whether compensation is due.