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Snow driving dilemma: RAC survey unveils drivers’ risk-taking and gritting gripes

According to a RAC survey of 2,300 drivers, four out of ten drivers (39%) would still drive in the snow even if three out of ten said they have panicked themselves or lost control of their cars in the snow.

The study shows how much snow and ice can affect drivers’ use of their cars, with the majority of them continuing to use them for trips they consider necessary even if weather warnings for snow and ice are in effect until at least Saturday: When there is a yellow Met Office warning, 68% of drivers say they keep driving; with more serious amber alerts, the percentage drops to 63%.

When there is a yellow warning, one in ten drivers (9%), say they decide not to drive; when there is an amber warning, that percentage jumps to 22%.

Thankfully, the majority clearly indicates that they drive considerably more cautiously if there is snow on the roads: three out of four drivers (75%) say they drive much more cautiously, while only 1% say they would not change their driving style to account for the conditions.

Conversely, a cautious one in ten drivers (11%) claim they never drive when there is snow on the roads.

The RAC is encouraging drivers to inspect their cars and modify their driving techniques to the road conditions during this cold snap, and to avoid taking any chances that could endanger themselves or their passengers.

In addition, the RAC asked motorists to rank their local council’s performance in “gritting,” (spreading salt) on the roads during cold nights. Only 51% of respondents thought their local government was “very good” or “good,” compared to 36% who thought it was “fair” and 12% who thought it was “poor.”

When it comes to removing snow from the roads following an especially snowy period, drivers are far less satisfied with council performance; only 24% of them rated their local authority as “very good” or “good,” 40% as “fair,” and 27% as poor. However, one out of ten drivers (or 9% of the total) reported never having witnessed their council remove snow from the roads.

RAC Breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis said: “We know from long-running RAC studies that the vast majority of drivers – a consistent eight-in-10 – are heavily reliant on their cars, something that’s exacerbated when the weather turns icy or snowy, especially if public transport is impacted and drivers have no choice but to use their cars for trips they consider essential.

“Doing so can carry huge risks however, and it’s vitally important drivers follow guidance from the Met Office and others accordingly whenever there is a warning for severe weather issued – especially if it is an amber or even rare red warning. Waiting until conditions improve might well be the safest and best course of action.

“If a driver has made the decision that it is safe to set out in snow and ice, it’s important drivers always check their cars and adjust their driving styles to cope with whatever wintry conditions are thrown at them. A car’s braking distance can increase by up to 10 times when there’s snow and ice on a road, meaning it’s vital to check all tyres have plenty of tread and slow down considerably to reduce the chances of a collision.

“Councils have an incredibly important part to play when it comes to preparing the roads during cold snaps, so it’s good to see a relatively small number of drivers rate their local authority’s gritting services as poor. On the other hand, drivers seem much less satisfied with their council’s ability to clear accumulations of snow, but fortunately that’s something that’s not needed very often across most of the UK.

““Come rain or shine, our patrols are out attending breakdowns and the fastest way to access help is by using the Rescue function on the myRAC app.”

Met Office spokesperson Stephen Dixon said: “It’s vital people take precautions to stay safe in severe weather. Our weather warnings highlight when people could be impacted by the weather and there are a number of things people can do to minimise disruption, including checking travel plans, ensuring vehicles are safe as well as making sure your house is prepared for severe weather.

“Winter weather hazards like snow and ice can be particularly impactful on travel conditions, so it’s always best to check the travel advice in your area before setting off on journeys when severe weather is in the forecast.”

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