10 Winter car mistakes that can invalidate your insurance

Cars parked on London street in winter

Cold weather driving can be dangerous and treacherous, so making sure you and your car are both safe and legal to drive during the winter is of the utmost importance.

What’s more, if you have an accident that could have been caused by a winter car mistake featured in this guide, you can invalidate car insurance and be charged with a motoring offence.

Here are the 10 most common mistakes that can invalidate your car insurance driving in winter UK:

  1. Deicing car windows inadequately
  2. Leaving snow on car roof law
  3. Illegible number plate and dirty lights
  4. Leaving car unattended while running
  5. Driving dangerously in hazardous conditions
  6. Using boiling water on windscreen
  7. Having an empty windscreen washer bottle
  8. Wearing wellies to drive in
  9. Driving through deep flood water
  10. Leaving your fog lights on

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1. Deicing car windows inadequately

Not properly de-icing and de-misting all of your car windows and mirrors before driving your car on a public road is breaking the law and can invalidate your car insurance.

Rule 229 of The Highway Code states that before you set off “You MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows”.

Simply leaving your windscreen partly cleared and relying on ‘porthole vision’ is a driving offence and could result in a £60 fine or three penalty points on your licence.

If you cause an accident due to driving with an unclear windscreen, you could be charged with a more serious driving offence that could lead to a fine up to £2,500 or a driving ban. Needless to say it’s likely your insurer will reject a claim in such circumstances.

You might like: Driving your car at night - Helpful tips for driving in the dark

2. Leaving snow on car roof law

You may think snow on your car isn’t as important as having your car windows clear, but snow on your roof could easily slide down onto your windows whilst driving or, worse still, splatter another driver’s car windscreen and cause them to crash.

Rule 229 of The Highway Code states that, before you set off, you should “Remove all snow that might fall off into the path of other road users”.

The penalty for snow on your car roof can be three penalty points on your Licence and a £60 fine

3. Illegible number plate and dirty lights

Driving with a dirty or snow-covered number plate and/or lights is breaking the law.

Rule 229 of The Highway Code states that before you set off “You MUST ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible”.

If caught driving with a dirty number plate, you can be fined up to a whopping £1,000 and if you’re involved in an accident, dirty lights can invalidate your policy.

4. Leaving car unattended while running

If you do not do everything in your power to avoid your car being stolen and carelessly leave your car unattended while it warms up, then your insurer could refuse to honour a claim for your car being stolen.

Is it illegal to leave your car running unattended UK?

Yes, if you leave your car idling (i.e. to defrost your windows) on a public road, under Section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 you are breaking the law.

In addition, Rule 123 of The Highway Code states that “You must not leave a vehicle’s engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road” - this rule relates to fuel emissions and noise pollution.

If you leave your engine idling on a public road, you can receive a fixed penalty notice for £20 which could increase to £40 if the charge isn’t paid in time.

You may be interested to read: How to make your car more fuel-efficient

5. Driving dangerously in hazardous conditions

Driving carelessly when it’s foggy or when the roads are wet, icy, slushy or full of snow, could land you in hot water.For example, you may think sticking to the speed limit is acceptable at all times BUT bad weather and driving conditions means you should be driving slower than the speed limit.

Rule 125 of The Highway Code states: “Driving at speeds too fast for the road and traffic conditions is dangerous” and according to the law, drivers can be held responsible for accidents, despite icy or snowy conditions.

Careless driving could see you receive three to nine penalty points on your licence and be fined up to £5,000.

Read more: Tips for driving in winter weather

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6. Using boiling water on windscreen

Experts recommend NOT using boiling water to clear your frosted windscreen as this can easily cause the windscreen to crack.

Section 40 of the Road Traffic Act states that: “A vehicle with a chip or crack in the windscreen is classed as a in dangerous condition”.

However, if you take your car for an MOT and it passes with a small chip or crack in the windscreen, you will not be breaking the law.

If a crack is too big, impairs your driving vision and your car hasn’t passed an MOT with a crack in your windscreen, driving your car could result in up to 3 penalty points and a fine

In addition, your insurer may declare your policy void should you have an accident with a cracked windscreen and try to make a claim.

You may want to read: DVLA warns drivers of 3 new driving laws coming into force this month

7. Having an empty windscreen washer bottle

Having an empty windscreen bottle is a driving offence all year round. However, because winter is much wetter and dirtier than other seasons, we all get through our windscreen wash like a dose of salts.

To avoid breaking the law, you should regularly top up your windscreen bottle, especially during the autumn and winter months.

Under Regulation 34(6) of The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, you must ensure that “Every wiper and washer fitted in accordance with this regulation shall at all times while a vehicle is being used on a road be maintained in efficient working order and be properly adjusted”.

If you drive with no washer fluid and are stopped by the police, or you are involved in an accident as a result of having restricted vision, you could receive a £100 fine, be charged with careless driving and invalidate your insurance policy

Read more: Preparing your car for winter

8. Wearing wellies to drive in

Whilst it isn’t officially illegal to wear wellies when driving a car, you could invalidate your insurance by wearing them.

Rule 97 in The Highway Code states that motorists should ensure that “Clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner”.

Referring to Rule 97, your insurer might claim that wearing clumsy, muddy and slippery wellington boots to drive in invalidates your insurance policy.

If you have an accident while driving in wellies, you are putting yourself at risk of a £5,000 fine, nine points on your licence or could even end up in court.

9. Driving through deep flood water

If you’re running late for work or have left late for the school run, you might be tempted to drive through flood water without knowing how deep it is. Don’t!

If you ignore a road closure sign put in place due to flooding and proceed to drive on the flooded road, you could be fined (as well as putting you and any passengers’ lives in danger!).

What’s more, if the water is 4-6 inches deep or more and your car suffered flood damage, your insurer could refuse your claim for such damage.

Insurers usually only pay out for ‘unavoidable’ flood water damage, not ‘avoidable’ flood damage.

10. Leaving your fog lights on

You should of course turn on your car’s fog lights when driving in fog where visibility is reduced to 100 metres or less, but leaving them on when it’s no longer foggy is breaking the law.

Rule 236 of The Highway Code states “You MUST NOT use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced (see Rule 226) as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves”.

If you use your fog lights unnecessarily, the police can pull you over and you could end up with a £30 fine.

Car Insurance Deals

Get a free quote and save money on car insurance this winter with Bobatoo

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