A new study by comparethemarket.com has revealed that it can take drivers 34% longer to spot a hazard while driving in snow as opposed to clear weather. Thick fog impacts reaction times by 75%, torrential rain by 30%, and sun glare by 13%.
To determine the findings, comparethemarket.com created a quiz that allowed drivers to test their reaction times while driving in various weather conditions. Having put the quiz in front of 1,000 drivers, it seems each type of weather brings its own set of challenges that drivers must contend with.
To help motorists prepare for driving in bad weather, John Parry, driving instructor at Parry’s Fleet Services offers five tips:
Driving in snow and ice: It can be hard to tell if a road is icy. If your tyres are making virtually no noise on the road you could well be driving on ice. If you are on sheet ice, don’t brake as this will make you skid further. If you find yourself behind a gritter or snow plough, only overtake it if it is safe to do so. Drive carefully, as there may well be uncleared snow on the road ahead.
Driving in fog: Use dipped headlights to start, however, if visibility is less than 100 metres, use front fog lights. Always drive slowly and increase the gap between you and the following car should you need to brake harshly for something you cannot yet see. If it’s really thick fog, consider opening your windows at junctions and roundabouts to hear approaching traffic. But, if conditions are really bad, you should consider whether your journey is essential. Lastly, it’s important to remember that fog can be patchy, so try not to speed up if conditions improve – you could run back into it a few miles further down the road.
Driving in rain: Reduce your speed and leave more space between you and the car in front. Look out for fast-moving vehicles going the opposite way which may create spray and reduce your visibility as it hits your windscreen. Also, use your air conditioning as it will help to avoid mist. Moreover, should your vehicle start to aquaplane, don’t go for the brakes, take your foot off the accelerator and slow down gradually.
Driving in gale force wind: You’ll need no reminding that high-sided vehicles are particularly affected by windy weather, but don’t forget that vulnerable road users such as cyclists, motorcyclists, and horse riders can be particularly affected by strong crosswinds on exposed roads. Keep a firm grip on the wheel, take your time, and give other vehicles more space.
Always have an emergency kit packed: It’s always best to have an emergency kit packed should you break down. Pack necessities such as extra clothes, blankets, umbrellas, water, food, and a torch, just in case you’re at standstill for a while. Also, ensure you have a warning triangle packed and place this at least 45 meters (147 feet) behind your vehicle on the same side of the road on the carriageway to help warn other road users.
Dan Hutson, Head of Motor Insurance at comparethemarket.com, said: “Having a quick reaction time is key to being a responsible driver, and you need to be aware of the conditions around you and be able to respond to them in time. It’s interesting to see from our research that drivers have different reaction times depending on the weather condition, with fog and snow affecting them the most.
“The Highway Code sets out in its advice for driving in bad weather that you should make sure you’ve always got time to react to a potential hazard by keeping your distance from the car in front. Tailgating is illegal and shouldn’t be done in any weather condition, but you should always allow for bigger gaps between you and the car in front of you in more adverse weather conditions.
“It’s also important to carry out correct vehicle checks before setting off on a long journey and make frequent stops. Another tip is to have regular eye checks to ensure you meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving.”