Winter has hit us again with the inevitable problems on the road that winter weather brings.  We have previously written about keeping legal on the roads in winter however it is clear that not everyone is prepared for the latest snowy conditions.  The morning news reports have been full of details of road traffic collisions causing delays on the run to work.

But how have the collisions been caused and what view would the police take of them?  If a collision is caused by a driver’s inability to cope with the road conditions it could still lead to a prosecution for a road traffic offence including dangerous driving.

Every year we deal with people charged with serious road traffic offences where they explain to us that the weather contributed to what happened.  Whilst the weather may well amount to a mitigating feature it is unlikely to amount to a defence.

Frequently drivers misjudge situations in winter weather.  Driving too fast in icy or snowy conditions is a common cause of collisions.  Failing to anticipate hazards and not giving themselves sufficient time to stop is a further cause.  This is particularly the case at junctions where collisions are caused by drivers failing to stop in time and skidding out into the road over the give way line.

Collisions such as these can cause damage to vehicles and injury to yourself or others.  They could also lead to a prosecution for dangerous driving.

Dangerous driving is driving that falls far below what would be expected from a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous. 

When faced with such a simple definition it is easy to see how a police officer may take this view when presented with a collision that has caused injury and damage.  If the collision appears to have been caused by excess speed in hazardous conditions it is likely that a charge of dangerous or at least careless driving may follow.

Some simple tips can help avoid collisions and therefore avoid the risk of a prosecution:

  1. Accelerate gently, using low revs. You may need to pull away in second gear to avoid skidding.
  2. You should maintain a much larger gap than normal between your car and the car in front.
  3. Use a low gear for going downhill and try to avoid braking unless necessary, make sure you leave plenty of space between you and the car in front.
  4. Try not to brake suddenly - it may lock up your wheels and you could skid further.
  5. Be particularly cautious at road junctions where road markings may not be visible.
  6. Keep your speed down and allow more time to stop.

If you do find yourself facing a prosecution then get in touch for early expert advice and representation.  We are here to assist you whatever the weather.

About the author

Callum is the head of the Motor and Transport team.  He is a solicitor with over 15 years of experience dealing with road traffic and transport matters.