Christmas travel: Winter driving laws you should know – from visibility to emergency kits

Winter Driving

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Christmas is a busy time for the roads with millions of people across the UK making the journey to be with loved ones over the festive period. The winter weather can cause a number of issues with travel networks when heavy rain, frost and snow plague the nation – making short journeys even more difficult. With more than five million road trips set to take place over the coming days, these are the key winter driving laws you should know.

Ice covered windows

While it’s rare for the UK to experience a white Christmas, the early signs of snow can wreak havoc on the roads – and your car.

Plummeting temperatures can leave car windows covered in ice on a winter’s morning, making it almost impossible to see while driving.

The Road Vehicles (Construction and 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.”

Speaking to, experts at Moneybarn said: “This means it is up to you to make sure your windows are free of ice and fog so that you can clearly see the road ahead.”

Failing to clear your windscreen before setting off could land you up to three points on your license and a £60 fine.

Leaving your car unattended with the engine running

Allowing time in your journey to clear your car windows before setting off is crucial to avoid being penalised while on the road.

Leaving your engine running while you blast heat onto the windscreen may seem effective, but abandoning your vehicle while doing so could land you in even more trouble.

Moneybarn explained: “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).”

A £40 fine can quickly double in emission-controlled areas of London.

The Road Vehicles (Construction and 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.”

If your car is left running on a private driveway, it is unlikely that you run the risk of being stung with a fine – but take care if your vehicle is left on the road.

Instead, Moneybarn recommended using a blanket or towel on your windshield the night before ice is forecast to avoid wasting time before your journey.

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Winter emergency kits

Moneybarn told “One ‘law’ that many people don’t realise isn’t actually a legal requirement, is keeping a winter emergency kit in the car during the colder months.

“But just because it isn’t enshrined in law doesn’t mean that keeping one isn’t a smart idea.”

Keep de-icer, jump leads and reflective warning signs on hand in the event of an emergency – you don’t want to be caught short in the cold, dark winter.

Keeping lights and number plates clear

The winter weather can be cruel on your car, but there are two key elements which should always be kept clean – your number plate and lights.

Falling foul of this simple task could land you a fine of up to £1,000.

Using fog lights

Moneybarn explained: “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.”

Using fog lights when it’s not necessary is illegal under the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 25 and 27.

The rules state that fog lights must not be used: “At any time other than in conditions of seriously reduced visibility”, or you could face a £30 fine.

Tips for driving in extreme winter weather

  • Accelerate more gradually
  • Keep extra space between other vehicles
  • Use headlights to improve visibility
  • Look out for cyclists and pedestrians
  • If you hit black ice, try not to panic – avoid any sudden, aggressive manoeuvres
  • Keep an eye out of large or fast-moving vehicles
  • Use your air conditioning to prevent your windows from steaming up.
  • If you do happen to break down, don’t leave the bonnet open as the rain could cause damage
  • Keep in low gear if driving through water
  • If you’ve just driven through floodwater and it’s safe to do so, stop for a second to allow any water to drain from the vehicle

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