Driving your car in winter: what to watch for

3 min read
December 20, 2021

When we’ve seen unexpected cold snaps turning into a foot (or more) of snow or hazardous ice, the havoc on our public transport systems in the past has been well documented. But what about if you use your car?

It’s a common myth that it’s illegal to drive your car in snowy or icy conditions – even if there is an alert issued on driving conditions. This isn’t true. But there are things you should do to ensure you don’t get into a situation where you could be fined and given points on your licence – which would mean your insurance premium will likely increase, or you could be judged to be negligent should you end up having to make a claim due to an accident. 

We help you stay on the road this winter with our tips on what to prepare for – and what your car insurance covers you for if you go for a winter drive.

Get the snow off your roof

It’s worth ensuring that your car is snow free before you take it on the road. 

While it is not illegal to drive with snow on your car, you could face a fine and points on your licence if you are caught with snow on your windscreen judged to obscure your view.

The Highway Code states that you must be able to see out of every glass panel your car has, including wing mirrors and windscreens. So if you have snow on your windscreen that blocks your view out, or this happens because snow has fallen from your car’s roof, you could be placing yourself and others in danger.

Equally, snow on your car roof can be judged as a hazard if the police see you on the road. If snow or ice from your car comes off on to your head and rear lights, or affects other drivers then you could be seen to be driving without due care or consideration – possibly attracting a fine and points on your licence and invalidating any insurance claim if this causes an accident. 

Make sure you can see through your windscreen, windows and mirrors

It’s not just snow that can cause your windscreen or mirrors to be opaque of course. If it’s been a frosty night, mist and ice can also be a hazard you face. Again, given that you must be able to see through all mirrors and glass panes on your car, you should take the time to deice and de-mist your vehicle before you drive. 

Clean up your numberplate and your lights 

All year round your vehicle’s registration number must be visible and in no way obscured by snow, mud or other dirt, so make sure you can see every letter or number before setting off.

Similarly, all of your lights must be visible as well as working and you’re likely to be using them more when driving in the winter.

Consider winter tyres

While it’s not illegal to drive in snowy or icy conditions, it’s clearly not recommended you do so unless you have to. If this is the case, it may be worth considering winter tyres for your car. 

They’re definitely not a requirement (within the UK – but double-check if you’re taking your car out of the country), but they could be a worthwhile investment if you know you’re going to have to drive in potentially icy conditions, given that they can reduce braking distances and improve your car’s performance in snow, slush or ice.  

Are you covered by your car insurance if you drive in snow or ice?

In short, yes  – your car insurance policy should cover you even if you’re driving in winter conditions. 

However, if you’re involved in a collision or your car is damaged as a direct result of you taking it out into the cold, you may have trouble making a full claim if your insurer has judged you to be negligent or knowingly putting it in harm’s way. 

In addition, if you drive with snow on your car or you’re found not to have been able to see through mirrors, windows or your windscreen – against Highway Code rules – and this was among the reasons you need to make a claim, your insurer may challenge you.

So while we would all consider safety first when we’re out on the road, it’s worth a bit of time and effort before you set out in the snow or ice  to make sure you don’t incur penalties, make your insurance a challenge, and most importantly, ensure you’re not a hazard to yourself or others.

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