Winter weather – are you road ready?

18 December 2020

Plans to visit friends and family over the festive period may have changed for many people this year, taking into consideration Covid-19 tiers and the latest Government guidance on Christmas gatherings. For those who are travelling to see loved ones, we know that the majority will be going by car.

Some will be making a journey they would normally make on public transport and so may be less familiar with the roads. Whatever their situation, for those deciding to drive, they will need to ensure that their vehicles are roadworthy. Preparing for the usual December cold snap will be a priority.

Whether we get a white Christmas or not, frosty windscreens, icy roads and increased risk of breakdowns can play their part in any journey at this time of the year.

We’ve asked our road user community about their experiences of driving over the winter period, and to see if the Covid-19 lockdowns have affected their usual vehicle maintenance schedules.

Road users in our community were largely happy with driving in winter, with some already pleased to have spotted gritters on some motorways. However, they want good quality road surfaces and lighting when driving in poorer weather. Drivers told us that they prepare for winter driving in a number of ways, from simply topping up screen wash bottles, to changing to full winter tyres and adding antifreeze to their vehicles.

I usually put antifreeze for the winter, ensure the oil is checked regularly, Tyres are changed for winter. These are the main checks. And making sure my lights are working.” Male, 35, Midlands

We found that the Covid-19 restrictions earlier in the year had put obstacles in the way of some drivers’ usual vehicle maintenance routines. Garages and car dealerships were closed for a time, causing some to miss their MOT appointments – though MOT expiry dates were extended by six months due to the pandemic.

Road users need clear, accessible information to be able to prepare for driving over the festive period. Some road users have seen winter driving messages, although mainly from companies offering winter vehicle checks.

Weather reports are seen as a particularly important source of information within our community and can even be a deciding factor in whether a journey is made.

Yes, I do check the weather or travel reports before making any journeys as I do not really like to travel if there is heavy rain or extremely cold weather. And, depending on how necessary my travel is on that occasion I may change my mind about making the trip that day.” Female, 20, Midlands

In addition to weather alerts, road users need to know which roads will be busy, where roadworks will remain and which facilities and shops are or aren’t open at motorway services. After speaking to Highways England this week, we are pleased to see guidance for winter driving and travelling over Christmas has been added to its website, which will be of benefit to road users at this time of year.

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