There are lots of different laws that apply to road users during the winter (as well as a couple that are actually myths) that could land you in bother, not just in terms of a fine, but you could also be putting yourself, your vehicle, and others at risk if you don’t abide by them.
Here are some of the rules that you need to be aware of when you’re out and about over the next few months, as well as some tips on how to stay safe, no matter what weather gets thrown at us this winter.
Driving with snow on your car
One of the biggest myths when it comes to driving in wintry conditions is that it is illegal to drive with snow on your car. There are no laws specifically prohibiting this, but rule 229 of the Highway Code states that you must be able to see clearly, so you should make sure that there is no snow on your windscreens.
In addition, it’s worth being aware of section 3 of the Road Traffic Act, which states that:
“If a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, he is guilty of an offence.”
This means that if any snow should fall from your roof onto the windscreen and block your view, or perhaps fall off and endanger other drivers or pedestrians, then you could face three points on your license and a £60 fine.
Driving with a frozen or misty windscreen
The same laws and rules from above apply here, meaning that you need to be able to clearly see where you’re going when driving. In addition, the Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulation 30 states that:
“All glass or other transparent material fitted to a motor vehicle shall be maintained in such condition that it does not obscure the vision of the driver while the vehicle is being driven on a road.”
This basically means that it’s up to you to make sure your windows are free of ice and fog so that you can clearly see the road, with the punishment being the same as for the previous offence, three points and a £60 fine.
Of course, these laws aren’t specific to winter, but adverse weather can clearly make them harder to stick to.
Leaving the engine running to deice windows
Given the rules that we’ve just outlined, you might think that switching the engine on and nipping back inside for ten minutes is a pretty efficient way to clear ice from your windows.
But aside from wasting fuel, you could also be in breach of the law and face a £20 fixed penalty fine (rising to £40 if not paid on time and even up to £80 in certain areas of London where there are extra measures to cut emissions). That’s because the Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulation 107 states:
“No person shall leave, or cause or permit to be left, on a road a motor vehicle which is not attended by a person licensed to drive it unless the engine is stopped and any parking brake with which the vehicle is required to be equipped is effectively set.”
While this doesn’t specifically cover leaving the car running on a private driveway, the damage to the environment and the risk of an opportunistic thief taking advantage should be enough to put you off. In fact, if your car is stolen when the keys are in the ignition, it could invalidate your insurance policy.
Instead, you can try putting a blanket or towel over the windscreen the night before or do it the old-fashioned way with an ice-scraper.
Keeping lights and number plates clean
Over the course of winter, your car pretty easily starts to build up a layer of muck and while, thankfully, it’s not an offence to have a dirty car, there are two parts of the vehicle that you must keep clean.
Both your lights and number plate need to be unobscured and readable and with all the dirt and water thrown up by passing vehicles, it’s important to keep an eye on them.
Making sure that your lights can work to their full effect has obvious benefits during the longer nights, and when it comes to plates, it’s vital for the police to be able to able to identify vehicles, hence why this law exists!
And if the penalty for falling foul of it is a significant one, as you could have to pay a fine of up to £1,000.
Using fog lights
Fog lights can be a lifesaver in the right scenarios, but if you’ve ever had an oncoming driver coming towards you with them on, you’ll know how dazzling, and potentially dangerous, it can be.
That’s why it’s actually illegal to have your fog lights on when it isn’t foggy, with the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 25 & 27 saying that they must not be used: “at any time other than in conditions of seriously reduced visibility” or face a £30 fine.