The extreme weather conditions across the UK have resulted in a huge leap in the number of car insurance claims, according to the AA’s latest figures. If the snow and ice continues, there are likely to be even more to come in the run-up to Christmas.
By midday on Friday last week there were already a total of 331 claims registered by the AA across the UK, of which 21% were snow and ice-related. This marks a 10% increase in the number of claims received on an earlier Friday in December, before the snow had fallen. However, the weather has caused the greatest disruptions in Wales and Scotland. Of all claimants, 51% in Scotland and 34% in Wales say their collision was caused by snow or ice.
Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance says: "If the police in your area are advising drivers not to travel then it is sensible to heed that advice and monitor the situation locally. During the run-up to Christmas, plan your journey to take account of the latest local forecasts and try to stick to main roads, which are more likely to be gritted.”
"If the road surface is icy, our advice is to try to keep a gap of 10 seconds between yourself and the vehicle in front to minimise the risk of you sliding in to the car in front." Douglas points out that tail-end crashes, especially at road junctions and roundabouts, are the most common type of winter claim, followed by collisions with parked cars. He adds that cars fitted with winter tyres are less likely to lose traction on snow and ice.
Many drivers are now switching to winter tyres to improve the way in which their cars handle the icy conditions. Winter tyres are made from a rubber compound that performs better at temperatures below 7 degrees centigrade, and tests show that cars fitted with them stop in a much shorter distance on snow and ice than those with conventional tyres.
In fact, according to tyre specialist Kwit-Fit, at these temperatures you would stop 11 meters sooner with winter tyres than if you had summer tyres fitted (when braking on an icy road from just 20mph). When you consider that you’re likely to be driving faster than 20mph on larger roads, this precaution represents a significant increase to your safety and that of your passengers and other road users.
Winter tyres are now a requirement in other European countries where winter snowfall is a regular occurrence, with Germany the latest to make their use obligatory in icy conditions. However, as the UK does not have a long history of heavy winter snowfall, it is still not compulsory to kit your car out for the winter months. Indeed, there remains some confusion as to whether adding winter tyres to a vehicle (and therefore modifying the vehicle) affects the driver’s car insurance premium.
Mr Douglas says: "Provided you are fitting wheels and tyres that meet the car manufacturer's specification - you can confirm this by checking your car handbook or with your local main dealer - and they are professionally fitted, AA Insurance doesn't consider this to be a modification and it shouldn't be an issue for other insurers.” If you are exchanging your summer tyres for winter ones, it is recommended that you change all four tyres at the same time. This is to ensure that the grip and braking capability is the same on all sides of the car.