Ground frost, wet leaves and low glare, Mother Nature’s trickiest winter driving conditions

Ground frost, wet leaves and a blindingly low sun in that order have been identified as the natural occurrences most likely to cause drivers to be involved in a near miss or a collision during winter according to a new study carried out by AA Motor Insurance.

The study which featured over 14,000 motorists suggest that as many as 6 out of every 10 motorist in Ireland have lost control of their car at some point as a result of icy road conditions.  Wet leaves, often over looked, can also prove hazardous the AA’s Motor Insurance study reveals.  40% of the respondents polled said they have skidded on at least one occasion thanks to a skin of wet leaves covering the road. 

The AA also advises drivers to be mindful of cyclists when roads are slick, particularly if their bike is visibly tilted rounding a corner.  27% of those polled by the AA’s Motor Insurance division said they’d gone into a skid as a result of wet leaves while cycling.

Another tip the AA is offering motorists is to have a pair of sun glasses in their car and to make sure their windscreens are clean to cope with low level glare on clearer days.  37% of those polled by the AA shared that they have had either a near miss or actual collision due to being temporarily blinded by winter time glare.

“Winter brings increased risk on our roads, sun glare being one of them.  The sun has been getting lower and lower since the summer solstice and will continue to do so until December 21st.” Says Conor Faughnan, Director of Consumer Affairs, AA Ireland.  “As a result, it can be near impossible to see at times thanks to eye level glare especially if you’re windscreen is dirty.  Keep your speed right down, put on your shades and keep  your distance from the car in front.  For many drivers their first reaction is to slam on the brakes when their vision is compromised and the last thing you want is to slam into the back of them.”

The AA’s winter driving hazards study also looks at fog which is most common in Ireland during winter particularly inland and at higher altitudes.  1 in 5 drivers polled by AA Motor Insurance said that they have had a close shave or collision while driving in fog with many drivers sharing that it is the weather condition they find most challenging.

In one incident shared during the study the participant crashed into a ditch at a bend having struggled to view the road signage and markings.  Another had a bust tyre having unintentionally walloped the curb while a third was struck by another driver who had no lights on and had drifted across the wrong side of the road.

 “Many many drivers in this country would benefit from taking the time to check their car’s handbook to learn about their lights and the various different settings.” Says Faughnan.  “So many drivers simply aren’t using their fog, dipped and full lights properly to the detriment of other drivers and it’s one of the most common complaints we receive from drivers these days.”

74% of those polled shared a belief that drivers in this country under use their fog lights when required and the most common cause of close shaves or collisions reported was other drivers, particularly those driving silver or grey cars, not using their headlights or fog lights.   Next after use of lights was poor visibility at a junction, poor visibility of a pedestrian, cyclist or animal or dazzle from another driver not using their fog lights. 

Advice from AA Motor Insurance on driving in fog:

  • Use your dipped headlights at all times plus your windscreen wipers and demisters.
  • Familiarize yourself with your front and rear fog lights. Know how to switch them on and off and use them only when appropriate.
  • Beware of other drivers not using headlights.
  • Only drive as fast as conditions allow and maintain a greater distance between you and the car in front.  Tailing someone’s rear lights can give a false sense of security and is dangerous.
  • If the road has street lights on you probably don’t need to use your fog lights.
  • Be able to stop within your range of visibility.  This is particularly important on motorways and dual carriageways where you’ll be travelling at speed.
  • Don’t accelerate to get away from a vehicle that is too close behind you.
  • Check your mirrors before you slow down.
  • At a junction with limited visibility, stop, wind down the window, and listen for traffic. When you are sure it is safe to emerge, do so without hesitation.  Pausing too long puts you in the path of oncoming traffic.

Fig. 1 Autumn-winter seasonal driving hazards.  Whether or not respondents have near misses/collisions or skids as a result of the following weather hazards (Based on 14,216 responses)

  Yes Somewhat No
Have you ever skidded on wet leaves while driving 23.3% 16.3% 60.6%
Have you ever skidded on wet leaves while cycling 20.1% 7.1% 73.0%
Have you ever had a near miss or collision while driving in fog 9.1% 11.9% 79.3%
Have you ever had a near miss/collision as a results of sun glare 12.9% 22.7% 64.7%
Have you ever had a near miss/collision as a result of ground frost? 31.5% 27.5% 41.3%
Do you feel that drivers in this country UNDER use their fog lights? 46.5% 27.1% 27.1%
Do you feel that drivers in this country OVER use their fog lights? 29.2% 18.9% 52.1%

 

Fig. 2 Cause of incident among respondents who indicated that they have had a near miss/collision

while driving in fog (4,800 responses)

 

I was driving too fast for the conditions 6%
I was driving too close to the car in front given the conditions 5%
I was dazzled by the beams of another car 11%
I didn’t see other driver as they were not using their headlights/fog lights 34%
I didn’t see a pedestrian/cyclist/animal in the fog 12%
Poor visibility at a junction 18%
My windscreen became obscured 7%
A multi vehicle pile up 1%
Other 6%