The warning comes as new research from Go.Compare car insurance shows that when it comes to winter driving, there are a number of conditions caused by bad weather that motorists do not realise are against the law, such as driving with snow on the roof or with a dirty number plate.
The survey, which asked almost 2000 motorists about driving in the cold weather, found that 40% of people were not aware that having snow on the roof can lead to a penalty.
Similarly, splashing pedestrians with rainwater, although most might think is simply impolite, is actually a criminal offence for exhibiting careless or inconsiderate behaviour while on the road – however, nearly half of us (44%) do not realise that splashing a pedestrian in the rain is breaking the law. And those aged 18-24 admitted to most often splashing pedestrians, with 17% saying they always or frequently did so.
Motorists were slightly more clued-up on driving with a dirty number plate, with one in five respondents (19%) saying they were either “not sure” or believed this to be legal.
Ryan Fulthorpe, car insurance expert at Go.Compare said, “Driving in the winter can be stressful, particularly if there’s ice on the roads or flooding after a big downpour. And when you’re just thinking about getting from A to B safely, it’s often easy to forget things like wiping down the number plate or clearing snow from the roof.
“However, as well as being illegal, they could also risk invalidating your insurance should you get into any scrapes. In most cases, your insurer is unlikely pay out if you have been driving illegally or recklessly, and if you were to have an accident as a result of not clearing your roof, for example, it could be deemed that you had been irresponsible.
“So, it’s always best to be safe and check your vehicle is in top condition before you set off anywhere in the cold weather. Similarly, always make sure to check you have appropriate cover in place should you break down or have an accident in poor conditions – you never know when you may need it.”
Go.Compare tips to keep your car safe and legal this winter:
Check your cover
Make sure your car’s serviced and in a good state of repair before winter begins, and check your breakdown policy – is it still valid and up-to-date?
Keep the windows clean
Salt on the road can dirty your car quickly. Keep your washer fluid topped up and store some in the car for quickly accessible water. Extra de-icer and antifreeze is a good idea too. If you find that your windscreen wipers are smearing your screen when they’re used, the blades need to be changed, or at least readjusted.
Light up the way
You’ll need your lights more than at any other time of the year, so make sure they’re working properly. If not, you’re risking the safety of you and other drivers and could get pulled over by the police and fined. Double check you know how to find the fog lights quickly too.
Keep an eye on the tyres
Make sure your tyres have at least the legal tread limit – 1.6mm for cars, but at least 3mm is recommended in wet weather – and that they’re inflated to the level specified in your car’s handbook.
Organise an emergency kit to keep in the car
While not strictly about legality, it’s important to be ready just in case you do get stuck somewhere. Things like a blanket, water, long shelf-life food stuffs, a small spade – items that will keep you warm and comfortable while you wait for assistance. Store a torch and first aid kit in your boot throughout the year, too – as well as spare batteries!