With parts of the UK forecast to hit by up to 25cm of snow this week, motorists have been warned about a costly driving mistake.
Amber and yellow alerts have been issued by the Met Office for snow and ice for parts of northern England and North Wales on Thursday. Up to 25cm of snow is forecast across the Peak District and the southern Pennines, with a warning in force from noon until 6pm. A separate warning for snow and ice is in place between 8am and 3pm across North Wales and Shropshire.
With dropping temperatures and icy roads, people setting off in the morning in their cars will be faced with frozen windscreens that reduce visibility. Those in a hurry may do the bare minimum to clear windscreens before setting off on their journeys.
But the bare minimum could result in a fine and three points on licences – and the Northern Ireland Road Police Unit have reminded drivers of the risks. Not only should frozen windscreens be cleared fully, but they should also be clear of condensation.
The force wrote on Facebook: “Please make sure your windows are cleared of any condensation, ice, snow or anything else that impairs your ability to view the road ahead BEFORE you start your journey.” They highlighted a driver pulled over for not allowing enough time to clear their window, saying they had received three points and a £65 fine.
The Met Office said an amber warning means travel delays on roads were likely, while public transport vehicles and cars could be stranded. Power cuts are also possible and rail and air travel delays were likely – with rural communities standing a “good chance” of being cut off temporarily.
In the area covered by the snow and ice warning, the Met Office said untreated pavements and cycle paths could be impassable.
Yellow warnings are also in place from 6am on Thursday to 6pm on Friday for potentially disruptive snow across northern Wales, northern England and the Midlands, as well as in Northern Ireland from 10am on Thursday until 6pm on Friday, though disruption here is expected to be more localised.
Driving tips for icy roads in the UK
With snow comes ice and driving on icy roads can be fraught and full of potential hazards. Sub-zero temperatures can mean that ice lingers and makes driving potentially dangerous.
It may sound obvious but you should check weather reports ahead of your journey so you have to time to prepare – especially if driving first thing in the morning. You should allow enough time to get your vehicle ready for the drive, meaning an earlier alarm to get up may be needed.
If the journey is necessary, make sure your phone is fully charged in case of breakdowns or accidents, while it is a good idea to make sure your vehicle is equipped with a phone charger, a bottle of water, snacks and a warm blanket. Allow yourself enough time to allow the car’s windows and mirrors are completely clear of ice and condensation.
Once on the road, try and stick to gritted, main roads and keep your eyes peeled for any potential hazards ahead. It should go without saying that you reduce your speed on icy roads and try to steer, accelerate and brake as smoothly as possible to avoid skidding. Higher gears are better for gripping onto ice.
Braking distances on icy roads are massively increased and you should leave as much of a gap between you and the car in front – up to 10 times the normal distance, according to the RAC. If you do start to skid, keep the steering wheel straight and keep your speed without putting your foot on the brakes.
Try and steer gently into the direction your car is skidding and use gears to slow down. Crucially, it is important to keep your hands on the steering wheel and not brake hard.
Chris Wood, from the AA, said: “If you need to travel, reduce your speed to account for the conditions and leave plenty of space behind other vehicles, and try to use main roads where possible as these are more likely to have been gritted.
“Allow extra time, as it’s likely your journey will take longer than usual, and ensure you have plenty of fuel or electrical charge if driving an electric vehicle (EV).
“The cold snap is likely to affect vehicle breakdown levels, with faults such as flat batteries and wiper faults.”