Aviva busts winter driving myths and motor cover misunderstandings.
As the nights draw in and the weather worsens, Aviva has put together a list of myths and misconceptions about driving at this time of year. But which are true, which are false and which depend on the situation?
1. It’s illegal to drive in wellies.
FALSE – Technically it’s not illegal to drive in wellies and Aviva research finds that 13%1 of UK motorists have done just that. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Rule 97 in the Highway Code states that motorists should ensure “clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner” so it’s up to motorists to ensure their footwear is suitable.
2. If you leave your car unattended with the engine running to warm it up, you may not be covered if it is stolen.
TRUE – Most motor insurance policies have a ‘keys exclusion’ clause, so if your car is stolen while you left it unattended with the engine running, you may not be covered. Leaving the engine running on a vehicle parked on the public road also breaks 123 of the Highway Code and is an offence under regulations 98 and 107 of the Road Vehicles (Constructions and Use) Regulations 1986.
3. You can claim on your motor insurance because your car won’t start in cold weather.
IT DEPENDS – Standard motor insurance is generally designed to provide cover for sudden and unpredictable situations, such as thefts and collisions. Vehicle owners are expected to maintain their vehicles, so something like a flat battery wouldn’t normally be covered. However, many insurers also offer breakdown cover, either as an add-on to motor insurance or as a stand-alone product, so it depends on your type of cover.
4. You could invalidate your insurance if you use winter tyres on your vehicle.
IT DEPENDS – The majority of insurers don’t require you to tell them if you have fitted winter tyres, and you usually won’t need to pay an additional premium, provided the tyres are roadworthy and fitted to the manufacturer's specifications. Aviva is signed up to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) Winter Tyres Motor Insurance Commitment and doesn’t ask customers to get in touch. However, a small number of insurers require you to inform them if you have changed to winter tyres. The ABI has an online guide and if you have any doubts, check with your insurance provider.
5. It’s not your fault if you crash your car because you have slipped on ice.
IT DEPENDS – Ultimately drivers are responsible for their actions behind the wheel, so motorists could find themselves with an ‘at fault’ claim if they lose control on the ice, even if there is no-one else involved. If another driver is involved, any fault will depend on the circumstances of the incident. Stopping distances could be up to 10 times longer on ice than under dry conditions, so extreme care is required.
6. Longer nights plus bad weather is a dangerous combination.
TRUE – The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) reports that 40%2 of collisions occur when it’s dark. However, the combination of darkness and bad weather can be particularly treacherous. According to the Department for Transport3, there were more accidents in snowy or icy conditions on UK motorways in 2017 during the hours of darkness – a 22% increase compared to daylight hours. So it’s important to pay extra attention during the winter months when daylight is in short supply.
7. You’re more likely to experience car thefts at Christmas time.
FALSE – According to data from Aviva, motor theft claims actually fall at this time of year, with Christmas day and Boxing Day recording some of the lowest volumes of motor theft claims of the year. In 2018, Aviva car theft claims on Christmas Day and Boxing Day were 87% and 76% lower (respectively) than a typical day in December. However this doesn’t mean drivers should let their guard down – it’s vital to keep your vehicle locked and secure, whatever the date.
8. You could be breaking the law if you drive without fully de-icing your windscreen.
TRUE – New Aviva research finds that almost half (46%)1 of drivers don’t always clear their windscreens fully. But Rule 229 of the Highway Code states “you MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows.” Number plates and lights should be clear too, and mirrors and windows should be demisted.”
9. You’re not insured if you damage your car by driving through floodwater.
IT DEPENDS – Drivers should check with their insurer about any policy limitations. Aviva covers damage to motor vehicles caused by driving through floodwater. However, floodwater can do a lot of harm and almost most half of flood-damaged cars treated by Aviva are unrepairable. In a typical car, if the depth of water is more than 4-6 inches (10-15 cm), it’s best not to attempt to drive through it.
10. You can invalidate your insurance if you don’t have an emergency kit in your boot.
FALSE – In the UK, there are no requirements to have an emergency kit in case of bad weather – but it’s a very good idea. The Highway Code suggests to take a de-icer and ice scraper, torch, warm clothing and boots, first aid kit, jump leads and a shovel, together with a warm drink and emergency food in case you get stuck or your vehicle breaks down. A phone charger is also a wise addition, just in case.
 Research conducted by Censuswide in October 2019, interviewing 2,007 UK motorists who drive at least once a week.
 Source: ROSPA Driving at Night Factsheet: https://www.rospa.com/rospaweb/docs/advice-services/road-safety/drivers/driving-at-night.pdf
 Source: Department for Transport: Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2017 Annual Report: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/att-achment_data/file/755698/rrcgb-2017.pdf
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