Drivers who fail to clear snow and ice from their cars have been labelled “accidents waiting to happen”, as £3.5 million of damage was done over the weekend.
Heavy snow and ice led up to 7,000 cars to meet their end in the past four days, according to claims analysis by the insurer AA. Nearly half of all claims received by the company were related to snow and ice.
The insurer said motorists who drive around in “little more than igloos” were a serious threat to road safety.
Simon Douglas, director of AA insurance, commented: “Good visibility is important at all times and especially so when the weather is poor.
“Pedestrians can slip off icy pavements while other vehicles can make unpredictable movements. You need the greatest opportunity to see what’s happening around you.
“People who drive around in cars that could be mistaken for an igloo are accidents waiting to happen. Not only can they see little of their surroundings but chunks of snow and ice fly off as they drive, posing a serious risk to pedestrians and other drivers.”
The AA said it has seen dozens of claims for collisions with kerbs, walls, fences and parked vehicles.
But in one particularly alarming incident, a driver mistook the smooth snow surface of a village pond ahead of him as the road.
In another, a driver slid down a street hitting several parked cars, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage
Douglas commented: “Driving on ice or packed snow demands great care. And where snow has melted, leaving a wet surface, there is a risk of black ice which can catch drivers by surprise.
“Most drivers in such a situation over-react, making loss of control even worse... But most parts of the UK rarely see prolonged snow so it’s not surprising that many drivers don’t cope well.”
Drivers are urged to take care on the roads, as snow and ice has turned driving conditions exceptionally difficult.
Gentle manoeuvres are the key to safe driving, as stopping distances are 10 times longer in ice and snow.
Drivers should wear comfortable, dry shoes. Snow-covered boots or shoes are likely to slip on the pedals.
The AA advises to pull away in second gear – easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.
When driving uphill, motorists should avoid stopping by waiting until it is clear of other cars or by leaving plenty of room from the car in front. Then keep a constant speed by choosing the most suitable gear well in advance to avoid changing.
Before going downhill reduce your speed and use a low gear to avoid using the brakes. Leave as much room as possible between you and the car in front
If you need to use brakes try to apply them gently. Release the brakes and de-clutch if the car skids and gently re-apply the brakes. A locked wheel on ice will not slow a car.
With automatic transmission in slippery, snowy conditions it's best to select '2', according to the AA, which limits the gear changes and also makes you less reliant on the brakes. Some cars have a “winter” mode that will lock out first gear to reduce the risk of wheel spin.
If you do get stuck, straighten the steering and clear snow from the wheels. Put a an old rug or stout cardboard – or even your car mats – in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres more grip.