Whilst the festivities may be winding down, drivers are advised to remain vigilant when seeing in the New Year. With extreme weather predicted for early in the year, we consider the practicalities of driving in adverse conditions and how drivers can avoid falling foul of potential criminal offences.
Driving in snow and ice - don't come unstuck!
Diverse weather conditions create different hazards throughout the winter and in different areas of the country at varying times. A single journey may involve very different weather, road and traffic conditions, so drivers need to be prepared for each one and adapt the way they drive to the conditions.
In snowy or icy conditions, before setting off and whilst driving, appropriate action could include1:
What offences can be committed?
- checking the planned route is clear of delays and that no further snowfalls or severe weather are predicted;
- clearing snow from your vehicle to avoid hazards to other road users;
- ensuring the vehicle's windscreen, windows and mirrors are demisted to ensure full visibility;
- driving at low speed in as high a gear as possible, accelerating and braking very gently;
- driving particularly slowly on bends;
- avoiding country roads where possible; and
- keeping an emergency survival kit in the vehicle2.
Most drivers will be aware of the common offences of dangerous driving3 and careless driving4 which relate to the expected standard of a careful and competent driver.
It is also worth bearing in mind some of the lesser known offences, which may result in criminal penalties, including that it is an offence to defrost a vehicle by leaving it parked on a public road with the engine running5.
The standard of driving referred to is not a fixed standard but one that constantly changes depending on a number of factors that are present at a particular time, including the weather and road conditions.
Should a driver become involved in a collision during adverse weather conditions and fail to adjust their driving by not taking any of the above actions, a charge of careless or dangerous driving could follow; despite the fact the driver never exceeded the speed limit or breached any other provisions of the Highway Code.
Drivers are therefore advised to remain extra vigilant over the winter season or risk criminal penalties.
1 The Highway Code Rules 229, 230 & 231
3 Road Traffic Act 1988, section 2
4 Road Traffic Act 1988, section 3
5 Road Traffic Act 1988, section 42
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.