For many people, the winter season is the most joyous of times. Meeting up with friends and family to enjoy Christmas and the New Year is the perfect end of the year for many. However, the season of celebration – and the murky months of January and February too, for that matter – can quickly be derailed if you happen to end up being one of the thousands of motorists who fall foul of several winter driving laws each year.
If motorists don’t take care of their car during the winter months, they could be liable to pay more than £30,000 worth of driving fines and penalties – a surefire way of spoiling the beginning of the New Year. Potential penalties include having a tyre tread depth of less than 1.6mm – the legal limit in the UK. Careless driving, driving with low visibility and misuse of fog lights are just some of the other penalties to avoid when driving in the coldest months of the year.
To help you avoid having to fork out cash to pay for a driving fine instead of spending the cash on some winter sun, Vanarama has outlined the top 10 most common things you could get fined for this winter, and how to keep your car safe and legal.
Winter Driving Penalties To Avoid
Due to the challenging road conditions between December and February, drivers can often be at risk of receiving a warning or fine for their winter driving if they don’t take adequate precautions. Here’s our list of the driving offences to avoid this winter:
By following our 3-step guide on winter car maintenance and checks, you’ll have the best chance of making it through to March without an unwelcome fine or penalty sliding through your letterbox.
1) Carry Out Regular Maintenance
It’s always important to carry out regular maintenance on your vehicle all year round, but this is perhaps even more essential during the winter months. Drivers are 20% more likely to be involved in a car accident during the winter months than during other times of year, according to car insurance company InsureTheBox. This shows the importance of performing regular, monthly checks on your car before tackling the harsh conditions of winter.
As well as helping you stay safe when navigating the treacherous winter roads, regular maintenance will also ensure you stay on the right side of the law. Along with maintenance such as checking your fluids and car battery capacity, there are 2 main areas of your car to focus on to avoid a hefty fine.
Potential fines to avoid:
· Low tread on tyres – £10,000 fine
· Defective exterior lights – £1000 fine
Every month, make a note in your diary to check your tyre tread and car lights. Low tread on your tyres can result in a fine of up to £2500 per tyre, so it’s worthwhile from a safety and financial point of view. To check your tyre tread, place a 20p coin in between the groove of your tyre. If the border of the coin is obscured, then your tyres will likely be above the legal tread limit of 1.6mm.
When you’re finished with your tyre tread check, make sure to test if your car lights are working as they should be to avoid a £1000 fine. Use a friend, garage door or wall to check your lights against, not forgetting to deploy the brake, indicator and reversing lights.
2) Carry Out Checks Before Your Journey
Before every journey you make during winter, it’s vital to carry out a series of checks to ensure that your vehicle is safe enough to drive. There are several potential hazards to check on the exterior of your car that if left unactioned could lead to fines totalling in excess of £9500.
It may be tempting to neglect these checks when the weather is cold outside, so always set 5 minutes extra aside before your journey in case you need to carry out any quick maintenance. This will ensure that you’re less likely to be a danger to yourself or others around you on the road, as well as not receiving any annoying driving fines.
Potential fines to avoid:
· Driving in inadequate footwear – £5000 fine
· Snow on car roof – £2500 fine
· Snow on car lights or number plate – £1000 fine
· Driving with low visibility – £1000 fine
Wellies are a popular choice for some during the winter months to keep their feet warm and dry. The Highway Code states that drivers should ensure “clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner”. Make sure your footwear isn’t compromising your driving to avoid a potential £5000 fine.
After a snowstorm, check that your car is still in a condition where it’s safe to drive without getting the de-icer and scraper out. If there’s snow on your car roof or obstructing your lights or number plates, set an extra 5 minutes aside to clear the hazard. Failing to do so could land you with a £3500 fine, so it’s best avoided. Lastly, attempting to drive with a partially obstructed windscreen will hamper your ability to drive safely on the road; this activity is sometimes known as ‘portholing’, where a driver looks through a tiny patch of clear glass in an otherwise frost-covered or snowbound windscreen. Therefore, remove ALL snow and ice from your windscreen before setting off to avoid a £1000 fine.
3) Be Mindful On The Road
With an ominous mixture of snow, rain, sleet and ice forming on UK roads between December and February, always be mindful when travelling on your way to work or on the school run. Not only will it be more challenging to drive for you, but also for those around you. According to the AA, stopping distances can be up to 10 times longer when roads are icy, so give yourself more time to stop the car where necessary. With the car more likely to slide on the road’s surface, carry out manoeuvres gently with controlled, slow movements. Also, there’s a couple of things you can keep in mind when on the road to avoid picking up a fine this winter.
Potential fines to avoid:
· Careless driving – £5000
· Driving through puddles – £5000
· Engine on while parked on a public road – £40 fine
· Misuse of foglights – £30
Under the law, drivers must consider the conditions of the road while driving. If ignored and an accident occurs, it could result in a fine of up to £5000 for careless driving. To avoid this, slow down and take every precaution necessary while driving. It’s also a good idea to try and avoid splashing any unsuspecting pedestrians by driving through puddles on the roadside to avoid a similarly chunky fine.
If you park your car on a public road and like to warm it up before you set off on your journey, you could be breaking the law and liable to pay a £40 fine. The Highway Code states “you must not leave a vehicle’s engine running unnecessarily while the vehicle is stationary on a public road”. Lastly, as the name suggests, only use your foglights when you see fog! It can be tempting to use them when it’s snowing for example, but you’re not supposed to and could be handed a £30 fine.
Driving in winter weather can often be challenging, whether you’re in a car or van, even for seasoned veterans. If you’re driving in snowy conditions for the first time in an EV, our 8 tips forelectric car winter survival have you covered.