As the mercury plunges below zero, Palmers solicitor says drivers should take an ‘intelligent approach’ to driving in cold weather

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With icy conditions sweeping across the UK this week, a specialist road traffic solicitor at Palmers has said that while there are no particular laws relating to driving in bad weather, drivers should take an ‘intelligent approach’.

Partner, Jeremy Sirrell made the comments as drivers yet again grappled with icy conditions on the roads this week.

“The general philosophy of road traffic law is that drivers must always drive within appropriate limits, set by themselves, by their vehicles, by the road, by the traffic and of course by the weather. In other words, they should take an intelligent approach,” said Jeremy Sirrell.

“Although – unlike on French AutoRoutes – there are not separate speed limits for wet weather in the UK, the weather is certainly a factor taken into consideration by the police when deciding whether to stop or prosecute a driver.

“In relation to prosecutions for excess speed, weather conditions are almost invariably mentioned by the officer reporting so that the court can take such conditions into account when deciding upon the sentence,” he added.

He said that while a driver could not be prosecuted for speeding if travelling below the speed limit, it could be possible for a driver to be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention if the road conditions were sufficiently poor.

However, he said: “It is difficult to imagine the weather ever being so bad that a motorist would be unable to venture out without risking such a prosecution. Yet, in extremes of weather, motorists are obliged to observe such limits, whether by way of speed, caution or otherwise so as to maintain a safe driving style.

“On a snowy or icy road, this may mean driving very slowly indeed.”

While adverse weather conditions create challenges for all road users, drivers of high-sided vehicles can face particular challenges. However, according to Jeremy Sirrell, it is unlikely that drivers of high-sided vehicles could commit an offence by venturing out in high winds.

Instead, a prosecution is more likely to occur in the event of an accident taking place.

“If, as a result of failing to take into account road conditions, an accident occurs then all the factors including the behaviour of the driver will be looked at in considering whether a prosecution should be mounted.

“Likewise, employers of professional drivers have a responsibility to make sure that their drivers do not place themselves in harm’s way and as employers are always in the position of potentially being vicariously liable, should anything go wrong,” he added.

However, he said most drivers do act responsibly in inclement weather conditions.

“Heavy rain invariably slows down traffic. Traffic slows down because it is composed of individual drivers who, contrary to what our political masters often think, are by and large pretty sensible and naturally slow down as visibility and road grip deteriorates.”