Press release

Winter is coming: Brits clueless on how to drive in snow-covered UK

The UK is preparing for one of the coldest winters in almost a decade, but new data shows many drivers are dangerously unprepared to drive in icy conditions and could be putting themselves and others at risk as a result.

  • More than 1 in 4 drivers (28%) are scared to drive in the snow – and many are unaware of the guidelines for driving in wintry conditions
  • Brits’ winter driving blunders revealed – from not knowing what colour black ice is, and not knowing the stopping distance for driving on ice, to driving with their head out of the window with an iced over windscreen
  • Car drivers’ habits have been revealed in the Winter Driving Study

The UK is preparing for one of the coldest winters in almost a decade, but new data shows many drivers are dangerously unprepared to drive in icy conditions and could be putting themselves and others at risk as a result.

A survey of 2,006 UK car drivers carried out by Auto Trader, the UK’s largest digital marketplace for new and used cars, published in the Winter Driving Study, has revealed that more than 1 in 4 (28%) admit they are too scared to drive in the snow.

The research shows that many drivers are incorrectly interpreting the guidance around safe winter driving or are simply not aware of key aspects of winter driving. As a result, many motorists exhibit dangerous driving habits during the winter months.

According to the data, more than half (59%) of drivers were not aware that black ice is transparent, and may therefore fail to identify it when driving.

What’s more, three quarters of those surveyed were unaware that the safe stopping distance increases by ten times in icy conditions. In fact, more than 1 in 4 (27%) wrongly believe that stopping distance increases by only three times when it’s icy, meaning many could be putting themselves and others at risk as a result of not allowing enough time to brake.

The news comes as data shows there were more than 32,000 road accidents between October and December last year, with 443 of those proving fatal[1].

The study by Auto Trader also reveals that more than 1 in 3 (34%) car drivers leave their engine running and go back into the house while their car warms up and demists on cold days. Meanwhile, 1 in 10 (11%) - or 3.6million drivers – do not wait at all, instead starting their journey with their head sticking out of the window, in order to see where they are going.

Meanwhile, more than 1 in 10 (12%) admit to having driven one-handed while they hold a hot drink on cold mornings – meaning they are at risk of losing control of their vehicle.

A similar number (8%) say they have driven without a seatbelt on cold days, in order to peel off layers of clothing as they eventually warm up.

Many cars may also not be equipped to tackle winter conditions due to poor winter maintenance, according to Auto Trader, as less than half (46%) of motorists know where to put anti-freeze in their car, and only 1 in 2 of those on the roads (50%) keep their cars topped up with it.

1 in 3 (33%) don’t even own an ice scraper, whilst 1 in 4 (25%) say they pour boiling water over their windscreen when it’s frozen, despite the risk of cracking the glass. 

Auto Trader has created a guide to driving safely in winter, to help correct this knowledge gap.

A spokesperson at Auto Trader said: “We’re about to experience one of the coldest winters since the Big Freeze of 2010. In wintry conditions, we’d advise drivers to stay off the roads if possible and only travel if it’s unavoidable. That said, many people will still choose to drive or may have no choice but to make a journey.

“Clearly, many UK motorists have a real knowledge gap about how to prepare for and actually drive in cold temperatures and many are actually unknowingly breaking the law. What’s more worrying however, is that many could be putting themselves, their families and other drivers on the road at risk as a result.

“Each winter, we see road accidents happen that could have been avoided with a bit of preparation or knowledge, so this time of year is always a good time to remind drivers how to best prepare for treacherous weather and what the rules around driving in these conditions are. To help, we’ve created a guide to driving safely during winter which car drivers can use to reacquaint themselves with the rules and best practices of winter driving, to keep themselves and other road users safe.”

Auto Trader is the UK’s largest digital marketplace for new and used cars.

For more information on the Winter Driving Study by Auto Trader, click here.

- ENDS-

For media information, imagery and quotes, please contact:

Rebecca Nassiri: rebecca.nassiri@autotrader.co.uk 

Notes to Editors:

Survey sample: 2,006 UK car drivers

About Auto Trader

Auto Trader Group plc is the UK and Ireland's largest digital automotive marketplace. Auto Trader sits at the heart of the UK's vehicle buying process and its primary activity is to help vehicle retailers compete effectively on the marketplace in order to sell more vehicles, faster. Auto Trader listed on the London Stock Exchange in March 2015 and is now a member of the FTSE 100 Index.

The marketplace brings together the largest and most engaged consumer audience. Auto Trader has over 90% prompted brand awareness and attracts circa 50 million monthly cross platform visits each month, with over 70% of visits coming through mobile devices.

The marketplace also has the largest pool of vehicle sellers (listing around 450,000 cars each day). Around 80% of UK automotive retailers advertise on autotrader.co.uk.

[1] Department for Transport data 2018

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