February 18, 2018

Snow and ice causes havoc on UK roads – again!

Why is it that a smattering of snow has the ability to bring the UK’s infrastructure to a grinding halt, year after year, while other countries, such as America and Sweden have the ability to function in far more severe weather?

A familiar site in Britain after a dusting of snow

A familiar site in Britain after a dusting of snow

Mild climate – Cultural problem:
The problem could partly be put down to the very changeable nature of Britain’s climate – we have four different seasons after all- none of which are extreme or permanent enough to ever warrant any systematic remedial action. For the most part, British weather is middle of the road  – not hot and not cold. This could explain why when there is a heatwave or a cold spell – it comes as a shock to the system – either hosepipe bans in summer or severely disrupted transport network in winter.

Why don’t councils grit roads and pavements properly? They claim they do and when called up on the issue always spout off impressive figures of budgets and tonnes of salt and grit use, but clearly they’re doing something wrong, otherwise we wouldn’t have slippery untreated side roads year after year and 30 mile tailbacks on the motorways.

The media have a lot to answer for. Do they know how to get some mileage out of a bit of snow, or what! The recent Christmas cold spell has enjoyed top story headlines for days.  Looking at the repeated news clips of queuing traffic and cars wheel-spinning on snow and ice would lead you to believe that venturing outside would be virtual  suicide.

Admittedly the Eurostar breakdown and flight delays added some weight to the coverage, but even so – the amount of TV time given over to winter weather has rivalled that of a war or terrorist attack.

Common sense:
Why don’t more British motorists use their common sense and take some time to carry out a few basic precautions – such as keeping a shovel and warm clothes/blanket in the car. The hordes of motorists stuck in the cars last week certainly wish they’d had done.

Information on  vehicle winterisation:
Instead of moaning and overacting to the conditions – why isn’t there more information advertised about the importance of carrying out winterisation checks on your vehicle, such as:

  • Checking there is sufficient antifreeze in coolant system
  • Checking washer fluid levels and concentration of screen wash
  • Checking the state of the battery
  • Checking the oil level
  • Checking tyres – both pressures and overall condition and tread depth.

Related article: Haynes Guides on preparing your car for winter

Tyres and how using suitable winter or snow tyres can dramatically increase grip and stability in slippery conditions is something that we Brits don’t seem to take much notice of. In America and Scandinavian countries, the benefits of winter tyres are largely known. The video below demonstrates how much more grip is available with superior winter tyres – even in extremely slippery conditions.

Perhaps it is about time this persistent perennial problem  of being defeated by adverse weather is finally addressed.  But let’s be honest, be suitably prepared for winter weather simply isn’t being British is it!

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