As the weather is forecast to turn colder and snow predicted in many parts of the UK next week, a new study is highlighting the risks too many drivers are taking in bad weather. The survey released today, (January 8th 2016 ) carried out on behalf of Brake and Direct Line, reveals 71 per cent of drivers questioned do not know how much longer it will take their vehicle to stop in icy conditions. This means they could be putting other road users, and themselves, at risk by under-estimating the distance.
11 per cent of drivers think the stopping distance is twice as long in icy weather, a third think it’s four times as long and 27 per cent think it should be five times as long. Just 23 per cent of drivers know that the actual figure is up to ten times as long, with six per cent being even more cautious and believing it is up to 20 times as long.
That means, while on a fine day, if you are driving at 30 mph and need to brake immediately it will take you 23 metres to stop, in icy conditions it could take up to 230 metres – that’s the length of two-full size football pitches and, of course, the faster you are travelling, the further that distance could be.
Many drivers also do not know enough about stopping distances in wet weather.
More than one in five drivers (22 per cent) fail to check the gap between their car and the car in front, and another fifth (21 per cent) do not leave a large enough gap, meaning that, if they have to brake suddenly, it could lead to a serious crash. Brake recommends that drivers leave at least four seconds between their vehicle and the vehicle in front in wet weather.
More than half of drivers questioned (54 per cent) think that other drivers travel too fast in poor weather conditions, and two thirds (66 per cent) believe other drivers do not leave enough space to stop.
This is why Brake and Direct Line are encouraging drivers to adjust their driving style to the conditions of the road as temperatures drop, and sleet, snow, frost and ice are all forecast.
Gary Rae, campaigns and communications director for Brake, the road safety charity, said:
“Our roads are at their most dangerous during the winter months, so drivers must be at their most cautious. We don’t want any more families to be torn apart by crashes caused by drivers not adapting to the conditions. Ice, snow, heavy rain and fog make driving incredibly risky; stopping distances double in wet weather and can increase up to ten-fold in ice and snow. If snow is forecast, we urge people to think about whether their journey is necessary, but if you get caught out driving in bad weather the 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, and to react in the first place, if visibility is reduced.
Rob Miles, director of motor at Direct Line said: “Even if you feel confident driving in icy or snowy conditions, others may not be able to keep full control of their car and may not be observing the correct stopping distances. If you need to drive, make sure that you take it slow and steady and don’t panic or slam on the brakes. Also, make sure you’ve de-iced your car fully before you drive off as restricted views out of the windows cause needless and preventable accidents. If it’s not safe or you feel too nervous, don’t make the journey.
Sheila Quinn lost her 24 year-old son Paul Dobson in a bad weather crash in December 2007. He was one of 4 passengers in a car when the driver lost control on an icy road, 2 of the passengers died, and the driver received a five and half year sentence for causing death by dangerous driving.
Sheila said: “It’s shocking that people are still not aware of how to drive safely in winter despite messages going out each year. A few moments of showing off can leave families like ours with a life time of pain. Living every day without Paul is a struggle. My heart sinks when I’m in my car and I see drivers far too close to each other and continuing to tail gate in poor weather conditions. My younger son is now 18 and not yet driving but does now go out with his friends in cars and it’s so frightening. I would urge all drivers to slow right down and take extra care in bad weather, so no more lives are ruined. I would hate any other family to go through what we have been through and are still going through it’s a life sentence and it doesn’t get easier. “
THE FACTS: Winter driving
• In wet weather, stopping distances more than double. On top of this, the rain and spray from other vehicles make it harder to see hazards.
• In icy or snowy weather, stopping distances can be ten times greater. Even if you think roads have been treated, it’s essential to drive slowly and keep well back from other road users.
• The responsibility for clearing the snow and gritting most roads, including local streets, falls to the local highway authority. However, given financial and resource pressures it is not possible for all roads to be treated. Around 40 per cent of roads are gritted. This means a driver can never assume that a road has been gritted.
ADVICE FOR DRIVERS: The A,B,C of 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 public transport if available. If you drive to work, speak to your employer 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 never use it when driving.
• CAREFUL AND CAUTIOUS DRIVING. If you do get caught driving in bad 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.