Charity urges: avoid driving in deadly conditions, as ice and snow hit

10 January 2013

Brake, the road safety charity
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As the UK braces itself for a cold snap, road safety charity Brake is urging drivers to follow the 'ABC' of winter driving to prevent devastating crashes. That means avoiding setting off in snow or other dangerous conditions, being prepared by listening to forecasts and having an emergency kit, and careful driving, by keeping a safe distance and slowing right down if caught in bad conditions. See below for more.

A recent survey by Brake and Churchill Car Insurance found most drivers don't fully understand the dangers of driving in ice and snow, and many will happily set off in treacherous conditions. Only one in six (16%) avoid driving in snow while nine in ten (91%) underestimate stopping distances in icy conditions by half. 13% do not ensure their car has a minimum 3mm tyre tread over winter, and 14% don't even carry an ice-scraper or de-icer over winter [1]. See full results.

Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: "Every year we support many families whose lives have been torn apart by bad weather crashes, so we're calling on drivers to do everything they can to help avoid tragedies during this cold snap. The most important message is to err on the side of caution and not drive if it's snowing, forecast to snow, or there are other potentially deadly conditions. Ice, snow, heavy rain and fog make driving incredibly risky; stopping distances double in the wet and can increase ten-fold in ice and snow, and if you can't see clearly you can't react to hazards. We are also urging drivers to be prepared. Listen to forecasts, and make sure your vehicle is properly maintained and kitted out. If you get caught in bad weather the most critical thing is to slow right down and keep your distance, bearing in mind it will take you much longer to stop in an emergency."

Brake's ABC advice on winter driving...

Avoid driving in snow and other treacherous conditions. Never set off when it's snowing or forecast to, and avoid driving if you possibly can in other bad conditions like fog, heavy rain and ice. Consider alternatives such as walking or using public transport if available. Speak to your employer in advance about working from home when weather is very bad, especially if you live in a rural area prone to snow or floods.

Be prepared. Make sure your vehicle is well maintained, and tyres have a tread depth of at least 3mm. Check forecasts and plan your route to avoid roads likely to be more risky and allow plenty of time. Pack a winter driving kit in case you're caught out. This should include: an ice scraper or de-icer; torch; cloths; a blanket and warm clothes; food and drink; first-aid kit; spade; warning triangle; and high-visibility vest. Always take a fully charged phone in case of emergencies, but don't be tempted to use it when driving.

Careful and cautious driving. If you do get caught out driving in treacherous conditions, you need to slow right down increase the distance behind the vehicle in front. In rain your stopping distance doubles, so keep a four second gap. In snow or icy conditions stopping distances increase by as much as ten times so you need to drop right back. Keep careful look out for people on foot and bikes who may be harder to spot. Avoid harsh braking and acceleration and carry out manoeuvres slowly and with extra care.

Read more advice on driving in winter weather.

Calls for action

Brake is also calling on the government to help reduce risks for everyone using roads over the winter by:

  • running national awareness campaigns, encouraging drivers not to set off in snow, to slow right down and leave a safe distance if they get caught out, and to keep winter driving kits in vehicles.
  • implementing variable speed limits on more motorways and lower limits on rural and urban roads.
  • working with employers to encourage good road safety practices, including allowing employees to work from home when bad weather makes commuting risky.
  • encouraging local authorities to ensure they are ready for bad weather by stocking up on grit and planning for road clearing. It should encourage them to ensure paths and pavements are clear as well as roads to enable pedestrians safe passage.
  • working with major public transport providers, alongside local authorities, to ensure public transport is a safe and available alternative to driving during bad weather.

Notes to editors

End notes:

[1] The survey results are from a survey of 1,000 drivers or riders carried out by Redshift Research in 2012 on behalf of Brake and Churchill, released December 2012. See full results.


Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 66 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (18-24 November 2013), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake's support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.