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How much longer is the stopping distance in icy weather?

Here’s a question for you: How much longer does it take to stop in icy conditions? If you are unsure, you can at least take comfort in the fact you are not alone.

A survey by road safety charity Brake and insurance broker Direct Line found that 71 per cent of drivers (that’s seven out of every ten) have ‘dangerously poor knowledge’ of the subject.

When asked about stopping in icy weather, 11 per cent thought the distance was twice as long compared with normal conditions, 33 per cent thought it was four times as long and 27 per cent decided it would need five times as long. All were wrong.

A mere 23 per cent, in fact, got the correct answer of ten times the distance, while six per cent overcompensated and said 20 times.

The study of 1,000 drivers, conducted by Surveygoo, also looked at driving habits. It found just 10 per cent would avoid driving in snow entirely, while 13 per cent said they would only do it ‘if it’s the only viable transport option’. 12 per cent said it had to be ‘in an emergency’.

29 per cent, meanwhile, said they would drive but ‘only in light snow’ and 36 per cent simply said ‘yes’, going against the Highway Code advice of only driving if a journey is essential.

As for whether drivers adopt the correct speed when snow falls from the sky, 54 per cent said most drivers are too fast. 66 per cent also said most drivers travel too close to the car in front.

Wet weather knowledge was tested but thankfully drivers seemed more savvy in this area. 21 per cent of respondents said the total was below the correct four second recommendation. 19 per cent got the answer right, 38 per cent said five seconds and 22 per cent said they failed to count a gap at all.

Brake commmunications director Gary Rae said: “Our roads are at their most dangerous during the winter months, so drivers must be at their most cautious. We don’t want any more families to be torn apart by crashes caused by drivers not adapting to the conditions.

“Ice, snow, heavy rain and fog make driving incredibly risky; stopping distances double in wet weather and can increase up to ten-fold in ice and snow.”

Rae offered some practical advice: “If snow is forecast, we urge people to think about whether their journey is necessary, but if you get caught out driving in bad weather the critical thing is to slow right down and keep your distance, bearing in mind it will take you much longer to stop in an emergency, and to react in the first place, if visibility is reduced.”

Direct Line bigwig Rob Miles added: “Make sure you’ve de-iced your car fully before you drive off as restricted views out of the windows cause needless and preventable accidents. If it’s not safe or you feel too nervous, don’t make the journey.”

For more tips when it comes to driving in winter, read: 10 ways to winter-proof your car.


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