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Five ways to stay safe in the snow and avoid invalidating your car insurance

22 March 2013

With much of the country facing more bad weather, Gocompare.com re-issues winter driving tips and considers the insurance implications.

With much of the country expecting more bad weather today and tomorrow, drivers are being warned to take extra precautions before setting out.  Gocompare.com has issued a set of winter driving tips and examined the possible car insurance implications from driving in poor weather.

Gocompare.com's head of motor insurance Scott Kelly comments; "We should really know the winter driving drill by now, but a lot of motorists won't have been on red-alert for more bad weather and many of the problems result from poor planning and not anticipating the conditions.  Difficulties for motorists can range from simply being inconvenienced by delays through to unwittingly breaking the law or invalidating your insurance and worse still; the risk of accidents involving yourself and other drivers.

"Drivers need to check the weather forecast before setting out, plan their journey carefully and adjust their driving for the conditions. If you must venture out in poor conditions, make sure your car is safe to drive and pack an emergency kit."

Sensible precautions to take before setting off in your car in bad weather include:

  • De-ice your car
    Not properly de-icing your car isn't just dangerous for you and other drivers it could also result in a fine and points on your licence. No matter how short your journey is, it's important to make sure all of your windows are fully cleared of snow, frost and condensation before setting off as it's illegal to drive with obscured vision. It's also worth clearing the snow from the top of your car to prevent it falling down over your windscreen as you drive. Failing to de-ice your car fully can also invalidate your car insurance if you need to make a claim. However, resist the urge to leave your car running to warm up while unattended. Though it might seem like a great multitasking idea to eat your breakfast while the car heats up, if your car - or anything inside it - gets stolen, your insurance probably won't cover it.
  • Check your tyres
    While winter tyres are ideal for snowy and icy roads, regular tyres should suffice for most roads. However, it's important to check that your tyres are in good condition, that you at least have the 1.6mm minimum legal tread and that your tyres are inflated to the levels advised in your car's handbook. If you do live in a snow-prone or isolated area, you might want to consider a set of winter tyres. But before you switch, give your car insurance provider a call to check if they consider them a modification or not. If they do then you may risk invalidating your policy if you don't declare them!
  • Drive for the weather
    Low visibility and dangerous road conditions means you're going to need to leave more space between you and the car in front and drive slower. Even for the most experienced driver, falling snow off the roof of the car in front, or black ice on the roads can easily cause an accident.  When breaking or turning a corner, try to do so as gently as possible, easing off the throttle instead of hitting the breaks hard. The gentler you accelerate or decelerate, the less likely you are to lose traction and skid - and even if you do, you'll be in a better position to control your car. Plan your journey ahead of time, and time your journey accordingly - add ten to fifteen minutes onto your travel time to ensure you're not in a rush.
  • Make sure you've got breakdown cover
    Even if you already have cover, it's worth checking what you've got as breaking down in bad weather is no fun at all and that's before you get the bill for being rescued!  Breakdown cover including home start can cost as little as 7p a day, but the cost of recovery without cover can be hundreds of pounds.*
  • Pack an emergency kit
    Essentials should include; a fully-charged mobile phone, warm clothing, a blanket, spare food and water as well as an ice scraper and antifreeze. Make sure you have high visibility clothing available, like fluorescent vests and jackets; in heavy snow or rain, visibility will be poor, so anything that makes you easier to spot is a good idea. Even if you have breakdown cover, in poor conditions your rescue time can be longer than you'd expect so also make sure you have enough supplies for the wait.

-ends-

Notes to editors:

*Quote retrieved from The Green Insurance Company and was vehicle coverage at £28.80 per annum. Cover included roadside, national recovery, home start and ‘onward' cover. The quote was for a 3 year old car and had a maximum of 6 call outs per year, including caravan/trailer cover.