Braving hazardous driving conditions: Why you need insurance
In the UK most drivers associate hazardous driving conditions with wet weather and winter ice, but any conditions that affect your ability to drive as you normally would are in fact hazardous.
These include hot weather, high winds, heavy rain, fog, snow, and ice. Each presents its own difficulties, requiring the driver or rider to pay particular attention to vehicle safety. So here is our guide to driving in hazardous conditions, how to prepare for them, and how your vehicle insurance policy might be affected.
Motorcyclists are especially affected by high temperatures and sunlight. If you’re taking your bike for a spin be sure to wear sunscreen, and take frequent breaks to keep hydrated.
Although car and motorhome drivers are less vulnerable to sunlight and heat, the summer time can take its toll on vehicles themselves. The softened road surface can get slippery if there is rain after a dry period, causing vehicles to lose grip.
Higher temperatures can exacerbate any existing damage your tyres may have, especially if they are under-inflated. Punctures and blow-outs may occur, so it’s vital that your tyres are sufficiently inflated. Check the tyre walls for cracks, and consider fitting Tyron safety bands which will help you maintain control in the event of a blow-out. Insurance discounts are available for motorhome owners who fit Tyron safety bands. You might also consider fitting a TyrePal monitoring device, which alerts the driver to overheating tyres.
If the your vehicle's cooling system isn’t working properly, it could run the risk of overheating — make sure the fan and coolant hoses work, and check the coolant level.
Strong winds can occur at any time of year. Motorcyclists are exposed, and therefore vulnerable to high winds. Motorhome owners should also exercise care, as high-sided vehicles are at risk of being blown off course. On the same note, car owners should also be wary of roof boxes, which can also catch in strong winds.
Because of the increased risk of being veered off course, having the right insurance all year round is very important. Avoid having to claim by giving other vehicles a wide berth in case you, or they, lose control.
You might want to avoid parking underneath any trees, or near anything which is likely to be affected by strong winds—a loose item or tree branch may damage your vehicle.
One of the most dangerous aspects of wet weather is how it reduces visibility. Also, with excess water on the roads, tyres find it difficult to grip the road effectively. This affects braking ability and increases the risk of sliding. Stopping distances double, so it’s important to maintain a safe distance from vehicles in front, to reduce the chance of a collision (and thereby a claim).
Make sure that your tyres are properly inflated, and that they have sufficient tread. The legal limit is 1.6mm for cars and motorhomes, and 1mm for motorcycle: but consider changing them before the limit is reached.
Also, check that your windscreen wipers are working properly, and that there is plenty of liquid in the windscreen washer reservoir. Keeping a grime free screen is not only practical, but legally necessary. It is an offence not to be able to see properly out of your windscreen, so this could affect your insurance if you have an accident.
Fog seriously reduces visibility and can make driving extremely dangerous. In such conditions it is vital that you slow down and put your lights on, using rear and front fog lights if visibility is severely impaired. Maintaining a safe distance between your vehicle and the one in front will reduce the risk of any bumps or knocks.
As with other kinds of adverse weather, motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable in fog. If you know that it is likely to be foggy, wear a reflective jacket to make sure you’re seen by other drivers.
You may always drive safely in fog , however some other drivers might not be as careful as you are. You might discover, for example, that a vehicle is too close in your rearview mirror. If so, it’s important not to accelerate— there’s always a risk of running into another car that wasn’t previously visible.
If someone collides with you, make sure you contact Club Care Insurance as soon as possible. Also be sure to stop at the scene of the accident to exchange your contact and insurance details.
Snow and ice
Snow and ice cause chaos on Britain’s roads during winter. Visibility and grip are reduced, stopping distances increase tenfold, and braking is drastically impaired.
It’s best not to drive in snow and ice at all, but if your journey is essential, completely clear your windows before setting off. Be sure to take some extra precautions with you on your journey, just in case you do get stranded. Items such as de-icer, extra clothing, food, a hot drink in a flask, and a shovel, will keep the chills away if you are unfortunate enough to breakdown.
Have you fitted winter tyres or snow chains? These provide better grip in snow and ice. If you’re taking a winter trip to continental Europe, you could be legally obliged to have winter tyres fitted — so be sure to check the legal conditions of your holiday destination before setting off.
Whatever preparations you have made, make sure that you drive slowly and carefully, use your headlights, and stay as far back as possible from the vehicle in front.
There are some instances that, despite your best efforts, damage or accidents cannot be prevented. If you have a cracked windscreen because it has iced over, don’t worry. Club Care provides unlimited windscreen cover for motorhomes and cars.
Finally, store your insurer’s claims hotline number in your phone. Whatever hazardous conditions you encounter on the road, you can call for help whenever you need it.