Motorists in winter can easily make a mistake that can cause an expensive accident or lead to points on their licence, so Nick Freeman – Mr Loophole – has tips to keep safe.
There are plenty of ways to slip up when driving in the coldest months.
Winter can turn drivers into accidental lawbreakers, the celebrity lawyer ‘Mr Loophole’ has warned.
Nick Freeman, better known as Mr Loophole for getting clients like David Beckham off speeding charges on legal technicalities, thinks many motorists are unaware of how winter driving can lead to points and penalties.
Even wearing Ugg boots or driving without a fully clear windscreen can land you on the wrong side of the law.
Freeman said: “There are so many unexpected ways that motorists can break the law at this time of year. It’s why I really want to make all drivers aware of potential problems – and so make roads safer for all users.”
“The modern motorist already faces so many challenges with congested roads, limited space and smart motorways. Winter simply exacerbates these facts.
“But at least if people become familiar with my winter warning plan, they`ll hugely reduce their risk of falling foul of the law whilst increasing the chance for everyone to stay safe.”
1) Take off the Uggs
Furry boots may keep out the cold, but they can be too big for the pedals or get caught under the accelerator, says Freeman.
You need to make sure your footwear is up to the task of controlling the car.
Rule 97 of the Highway Code says motorists should ensure “clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner”.
If you love Uggs, make sure you slip a different pair of shoes on to drive.
“Keep a separate pair of shoes for driving in the car.” he says.
2) Use bare hands or the right gloves
Driving gloves are often viewed as slightly comic, but they may keep you on the right side of the law, warns Freeman.
Gloves that aren’t meant for driving may affect the amount of grip you have on the steering wheel.
If your car is involved in an accident because of your gloves then serious charges such as driving without due care or could follow – which could lead to points, a fine or disqualification.
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3) Winter takes the spark out of electric cars
Be aware that winter reduces the maximum driving range of an electric car, says Freeman.
You may be tempted to drive more slowly if you’re running out of power.
But remember you could be charged with driving without reasonable consideration for other motorists which, if it goes to court has an unlimited fine, three to nine points on your licence and a discretionary disqualification.
4) Beware of smart motorways
Smart motorways are especially challenging in the winter thanks to variable speed limits which can lead to a build-up in traffic.
Aside from the danger of not having a hard shoulder, there’s far greater temptation to tailgate – driving too close to the car in front – because of the frustration of reduced speed and wanting to get home.
Depending on the circumstances you could be charged with driving without reasonable consideration (it could cause inconvenience) or careless driving ( because the action is below the standard of the careful and competent driver).
You could even face charges of dangerous driving – which could lead to a range of sentences depending on the facts.
5) Stay in the car when defrosting it
On cold mornings it may be tempting to get out of the car and leave the engine running when defrosting your car.
But if you’re on the road – rather than a private driveway – this means breaking the law.
The Highway Code states that drivers are expected to always be always in control of their vehicle while the engine is running.
You also take the risk of not being covered for an insurance claim if your car is stolen.
Most policies have a ‘keys exclusion’ clause, meaning that you won’t be covered if your car gets nicked while you leave the engine running.
6) Clear the roof
If the snow falls off onto your windscreen and affects your driving, or flies into the path of another car, then you could find yourself charged with “driving without reasonable consideration for other road users”.
Depending on the incident you could face three to nine penalty points, disqualification or an unlimited fine.
Also make sure to clear any snow or dirt from your number plate, as you could face a fine of up to £1000 if you don’t wipe them clean.
7) Be patient
Its annoying to wait until the windscreen clears when you’re in a hurry, its freezing cold and the glass is frosted over.
But it is an offence to drive without properly defrosting or demisting your vehicle, and the police can fine you.
Using a vehicle with parts or accessories in a “dangerous condition” could result in a fine of £60 and three penalty points – though the offences and consequences could be greater if you cause an accident.
8) Dip your lights
You must remember to switch on your headlights when driving in the dark or risk up to nine points and a fine.
There`s no specific law surrounding dazzling another driver with your headlights, Freeman said, though you could be charged with driving without reasonable consideration or careless driving.
9) Get your eyes checked
Driving at night is much harder because the darker it is, the more the pupils dilate to let light in. This can lead to blurred vision, says Freeman.
You must be able to read – with or without glasses or contact lenses – a car number plate made after September 1 2001 from 20 metres away.
10) Give e-scooters room
In winter e-scooters are much more likely to slide and skid – especially because the brakes are often too sharp for the slippery road surface and the riders haven’t been trained to use them.
“That’s why motorists must give them a wider berth than normal, “ says Freeman.
”But remember, even though e-scooters which are not part of the government rental scheme are illegal, you, the driver, will still be at fault after a collision because in real terms there is a reverse burden of proof`.
“That is, the burden is on the motorist to prove they were not at fault.”