Many drivers “ignore” winter weather warnings despite the increased risk of driving in bad weather, according to research published this month. Research from car insurance company Admiral found accident rates spike during the winter months, yet many drivers would still set out in spite of a red weather warning.

According to the company’s study, almost a fifth (18 percent) of the 2,000 British motorists surveyed said they would drive despite a red weather warning, which the Met Office issues when dangerous weather is expected and “it is very likely that there will be a risk to life”. Meanwhile 50 percent said they would ignore a “severe” or “normal” weather warning, which would indicate a “danger to life”.

The figures come despite Admiral’s data, which shows a 25-percent increase in accidents during November when compared with April, the month that usually sees the lowest number of crashes. December and January also see accident rates rise compared with the summer months.

Car tires on winter road

And the onset of winter also brings a higher proportion of serious accidents, according to Admiral. The firm says incidents defined as “severe”, which sometimes involve injuries and see vehicles so badly damaged they are undriveable, account for 12 percent of all accidents in February. That falls to 11 percent in January and December, and 10 percent in November.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise, therefore, that almost a quarter of Brits (23 percent) have been involved in a car accident after driving in severe winter weather conditions, such as snow, heavy rain, and high winds. And one in 10 (10 percent) of drivers said they had been involved in an accident caused by black ice.

Winter Driving

“Don’t ignore the weather warnings – they’re put in place in order to protect people,” said road safety expert Dave Harford. “Yellow warnings are the more regular ones issued, whereas amber and red aren’t as common but are much more serious. Red means a danger to life. Weather warnings can be issued and removed quickly, a bit like the weather itself – dynamic and always changing. If an area you’re in or going to has a weather warning, consider the times, severity and if your journey is worth it.

“Driving on ice is difficult and demands time and care from drivers. The most important thing is not to rush. You cannot always see black ice and it can form anywhere, but it’s even more likely to form in tunnels bridges and on shaded quieter roads or low-lying areas where the early morning sun doesn’t get to.

“Vehicle stopping distances can be up to ten times longer on ice. So, plan ahead and
perform smooth well-timed braking, acceleration, and steering. If you do find yourself
skidding on ice do not panic, hold the wheel lightly, and ease off the throttle, do not brake.”