Police in County Durham have issued a warning and a series of safety tips for motorists attempting to drive in the current treacherous wintry weather conditions.
Many road users have been concerned in particular by rumours that they could be fined for driving with snow on their roofs. The Road Policing Unit said that there is no specific legislation on driving with snow on the roof of a vehicle, however if it slips over the windscreen, or flies into the path of another car, it could leave the driver open to being penalised for driving without due consideration, dangerous driving, not being in proper control of the vehicle, not having a full view ahead and windows not being sufficiently clean.
Inspector Martin Peace is the Neighbourhood Inspector for Bishop Auckland said “The issue of snow on car roofs is obviously something that affects us all as we make our way around with our normal day to day business. Durham Constabulary recognises there may be occasions where a build up of snow on a vehicles roof could blow off and obstruct the view of other motorists thus potentially causing an accident”
“We are asking that prior to commencing a journey motorist’s remove as much snow as possible from a vehicles roof which could be done using a soft bristled sweeping brush. We also recognise that for some members of our community this may be problematic such as for older or disabled persons. It’s really all about us helping each other during this period of inclement weather and I would urge people to be good neighbours, as many are. This could just mean clearing the drive of a more vulnerable person and also brushing the snow off their car roofs. Durham Constabulary does not intend targeting motorists by issuing fixed penalties and I can confirm that no such instructions have been issued to officers”
Martin also says “I would however add that if a build up of snow on a vehicle that could have been removed was allowed to remain and as a result a road collision occurred it could result in a prosecution but this would just be one of a number of factors that would be considered. Durham Constabulary would urge members of the motoring public to ensure their cars are fit for the journey they are making. We have no intention of targeting the motoring public going about their lawful business at this difficult time. We are there to help and ensure their journeys are as safe and trouble free as possible.”
Prepare your vehicle for the journey
Durham Constabulary are urging drivers to prepare by keeping vehicles in top condition before taking to the road.
Take special care that brakes, tyres, lights, batteries, windscreens and wiper blades are in good condition and well maintained. In addition, washer bottles need to contain an additive to stop the water from freezing. Plan ahead. Check the forecast, road conditions and consider alternative routes. Allow extra time for your journey and check your planned route is free from delays.
Tyres should be checked weekly to ensure they are legal and at the correct pressure. The minimum legal tread depth for cars is 1.6mm across the centre three-quarters of the breadth of the tread around the entire circumference, 1mm for motorcycles. They should also be checked for bulges, cuts or tears which will weaken the tyre. Failure to maintain your tyres could lead to a maximum of £2,500 fine and three penalty points per tyre.
Windscreens, wiper blades and windows must be kept clean and free from defects. Make sure it is properly demisted and clear of snow and ice before you drive. Low sun can make it difficult to see and a dirty, greasy or damage windscreen can make this worse. All lights including reflectors must be kept clean and clear and be in good working order. This includes registration plate lights.
Remember to change the way you drive
The police have issued a number of tips and advice for driving safely in the conditions. Bad weather is often blamed for causing accidents, but the real cause is inappropriate driving for the conditions that exist.
In wet weather stopping distances will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads. Aquaplaning can be a frightening experience. This is where a wedge of water builds up between the front tyres and the road surface. The safest solution is to remove the pressure from the accelerator, allowing the vehicle to lose speed and the tyres to regain their grip.
Keep well back from the road user in front in icy or snowy weather. Stopping distances can be up to ten times greater. When the roads are icy, drive at slow speed in as high a gear as possible and accelerate and brake very gently.
Avoid driving in snowy or icy conditions unless your journey is essential. If you do then take an emergency kit of a scraper, de-icer, torch, first aid kit, jump leads, shovel, warm drink and emergency food in case you get stuck or break down.