DRIVING in winter forces drivers to be far more aware and vigilant than they would be at other times of year.
Snow, ice, fog and rain all make it more difficult and car insurance firms have different demands when it comes to keeping you covered.
Heavy snowfall might be a welcome event for schoolchildren looking for a day off. But for motorists, it can be treacherous – let alone costly.
Some mightn't realise their car insurance carries rules that apply during icy weather.
Is my car insured in the snow?
Your car insurance will still be valid if you take it out in the snow — but be warned.
If your insurers believe you have negligently put your car in harm's way then any claim could be questioned.
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So if you take a risk and travel in heavy amber or red weather warnings and end up in an accident, you may be scuppered.
And with plenty of people around to film chaos on the roads with their smartphones, the chances are the evidence will be uploaded to social media for your insurers to see.
Kevin Pratt, consumer affairs expert at MoneySuperMarket, told The Scottish Sun : "Your insurance cover should remain valid whatever the weather, but don’t take that as a green flag to drive without giving heed to the red alert for snow.
"Simply knowing you’re going to get a payout shouldn’t mean you take undue risks.
“If your insurance company can prove contributory negligence on your part, your claim might be questioned, and any payout reduced.
He said you might not even be entitled to recovery by your roadside rescue policy.
Kevin added: “Same would apply if you went down a road in contravention of official road closure signs and were subsequently involved in an accident."
Spokesman for Direct Line Simon Hendrick added: "We will advise all customers for their own personal safety to listen to local news and local authorities about venturing out in extreme weather.
"But it doesn't make your insurance null and void.
"People should be careful when the weather is so extreme and shouldn't really venture out unless it's an extreme necessity."
A spokesman for The Association of British Insurers added: "We would urge all drivers to pay close attention to advice from local authorities and the emergency services in areas affected by snow – particularly where there is a red warning.
"People’s safety is paramount. However social media rumours that motor insurance will be invalid if people drive during a red warning are not true.
"Motor insurance will cover you in the usual way, providing you are driving within the law."
DOES YOUR TYPE OF COVER MATTER DURING A RED WARNING?
“If you have comprehensive car insurance, you’re covered for damage to your own vehicle and any other vehicle or property where you’re liable for any damage caused.
"With third party cover, you won’t get any pay out for your vehicle, but your liabilities will be covered.
“If your car is damaged but you cannot trace the responsible driver, you can claim against your own comprehensive policy, but you would sacrifice your policy excess.
"For serious accidents where the responsible driver cannot be found, your insurer should put you in touch with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, which may be able to fund compensation.”
How to drive in the snow without breaking the law
These seemingly innocent practices are to be avoided if you would rather not get slapped with a fine or break the terms of your insurance.
- Defrosting your car – the lazy wayNipping out to switch your engine on early may seem like a clever way to make your car comfy and defrost the windscreen.
But you can invalidate your insurance if you leave the motor running unattended.
That is because most brokers will refuse to pay out if drivers fail to live up to their "duty of care" — a common clause in contracts.
- Driving with snow still on the roof: While having snow on your roof is not prohibited it could land you in deep drift with the law. Should clumps fall onto your windscreen or onto another car you could be penalised for driving without "due consideration". More seriously, you could be considered to be using a motor vehicle "in a dangerous condition".
- Not cleaning every window or your lights: Every glass panel used to see from and even your head and tail lights need to be scrubbed of ice and condensation to ensure you are within the law. The RAC said: "The Highway Code stipulates that if driving in adverse weather conditions you must, by law, be able to see out of every glass panel in your vehicle. "This is supported by the section 41D of the Road Traffic Act 1988, meaning it is a legal requirement to have a clear view of the road ahead before you set off."
- Not de-icing your license plate: Even your licence plate needs to be free of ice and snow. Drivers could be accused of purposely trying to avoid the detection of speed cameras by keeping them covered over. The RAC explains: "In addition, it is also the law that all lights and number plates are clearly visible too."
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