Winter road mayhem: league table of risks

car stuck in snow

The last week hasn't brought a great deal of joy for British drivers. No sooner have you risked frostbite scraping ice off the car, and slipped a disk digging the car off the drive, than you face the real possibility of a winter bump on the road.

Around the country 8,400 cars have been damaged by the snow and ice, at a cost of £4.2 million. But what are the biggest risks and what can you do to stay safe?
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The AA calculated the damage caused by the last four days of snow, and discovered that its claims had increased 36% from a week earlier.

The biggest day for prangs was the first day that the snow iced over - Saturday - when 54% of all claims on the day were due to the weather.

Over the past four days, some 42% of claims were from people slipping and sliding in the snow. So the AA released a league table of the accidents you're most likely to have in this weather:

Biggest risks

1. Parked cars came off worst, accounting for just over 10% of the claims. In fact, some made the most of it, with one customer admitting that as he slid down a street on ice he 'bounced off a dozen parked cars'. That would count as just one claim so far as his record is concerned, but will be a lot of work for the insurer to sort out.

2. Coming in at second place are tail-end shunts with 6.3% of the tally. There's nothing more alarming than coming to the end of a queue and realising the inevitable is going to happen as the wheels lock, the car gently gliding into the vehicle in front. One unfortunate customer did just that and as she exchanged details with the other driver, another car slid into hers. And then two more did just the same...

3. Hitting kerbs, which are often hidden from view under snow, proved the third most common claim with 6% suffering the sickening tell-tale crunch as car hits concrete.

4. A close fourth in the league of misfortune, with just under 6% of claims, are cars that slid into street furniture. There must be a fair number of broken road signs, lamp-posts, bollards and even park benches littering Britain's towns after attack from out-of-control motors!

One customer managed to fell a lamp-post which collapsed on to a passing car but fortunately none were hurt. Oddly, the lamp stayed on! Another driver slid through the cones and into a roadworks trench.

5. (Joint 5th) Next are collisions with vehicles coming towards each other, claiming 3% of the total. Also at 3% were junction manoeuvres that went wrong and a similar number of cars knocking down walls.

6. At number six are accidents at home with garages, gate posts, partners' and neighbours' cars all suffering the indignity of a failed attempt to exit the drive or stop when returning home.

One unfortunate driver put his car in the garage - not intentionally as he went through the up-and-over door without opening it first thanks to ice on the drive.

Among the rest of claims included collisions with police cars, an ambulance, a snow plough, two buses and a skip.

Three claimants managed to overturn their cars, one driver saying that he went on to slide down a hill on the roof, only coming to a halt when his inverted vehicle was gently stopped in its tracks by a parked car. A further 16 cars were claimed by ditches, rivers, a Norfolk dyke or in one case, a village pond which the driver mistook as the continuing road in the middle of a snowstorm.

What can you do?

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, said: "We may not be able to do much about the weather, but we can take precautions to reduce the risk of a drive ending in disaster." Clearly you need to make decisions about whether driving is really necessary. You also need to drive to suit the conditions, and take your time.

Before you set off it's also worth making some checks:
  • Antifreeze – check coolant level regularly and, if required, top-up with a mixture of the correct type of antifreeze. Your garage should check concentration to ensure adequate cold temperature protection.
  • Battery – the most common cause of winter breakdowns. A battery more than five years old may struggle in the cold - get it checked and replaced if necessary to avoid the inconvenience of an unplanned failure.
  • Fuel – keep at least a quarter of a tank in case of unexpected delay.
  • Lights – check and clean all lights regularly to make sure you can see and be seen clearly. Carry spare bulbs.
  • Tyres – should have at least 3mm of tread for winter motoring. Consider winter tyres for improved safety. Check pressures at least every fortnight.
  • Windscreen – reduce dazzle from the low sun by keeping the screen clean inside and out. Now is a good time to renew worn wiper blades.
  • Screen wash – use a 50% mix of a good quality screen wash to reduce the chance of freezing in frosty weather.
  • Locks and door seals – stop doors freezing shut with a thin coat of polish or Vaseline on rubber door seals. A squirt of water dispersant (WD-40) in locks will help stop them freezing.

It's also worth carrying an emergency kit including a blanket, rug or sleeping bag, shovel, bits of carpet or thick cardboard to place under driven wheels to help regain traction on ice or snow, salt, sand or cat litter – to help clear snow and ice, reflective jacket, ice scraper and de-icer, torch and batteries, tow rope, battery jump leads, bottled water, snacks – chocolate or cereal bars, extra screen wash, a warm winter coat, scarf, hat, gloves and warm clothes, waterproofs, sturdy boots, and a flask of hot drink.

Or better still, stay at home!

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Car brands with the highest accident rate
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Winter road mayhem: league table of risks
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