'Highways England handles ice-covered roads just as badly as it always has'

Mike Rutherford thinks Britain should be better prepared for snowy roads

Opinion snow

Most things car, driver, tech and safety-related have improved beyond recognition and expectation in recent years. Generally, progress has been ridiculously impressive. 

But, some things – lethargy at Highways England, a need for more proactive communication at the DfT, and car-loathing at some councils – never change. 

These and other state organisations with ‘authority’ seem to handle the problem of snow and ice-covered roads (and pavements) as badly today as they did in years past – or worse. Citroen UK agrees. It has taken the unusual step of revealing that from 2017/18 to 2019/20 there was a 29 per cent drop in the average number of days councils spent gritting roads.   

Far too many ‘professionals’ who are paid to protect and serve our frozen highways and byways seem invisible, silent and inactive when temperatures drop below zero. Recently, they plummeted to minus 25C, the lowest for 25 years. Yet the sickening sight and sound of spinning car tyres, plus vehicles dangerously bumping into each other on ignored and ungritted roads seemed as common last week as back in 1995. Progress? What progress? 

Britain sits in Northern Europe. Snow, ice, slush and other arctic-like conditions are guaranteed. So why are we so lousy at dealing with winter weather?

We motorists can do our bit by investing in winter driving courses. Money permitting, a 4x4 workhorse is another wise investment. As are cost effective winter or all-season tyres.  

As for the state-funded authorities whose job it is to run the winter road show in the UK, they can’t keep telling us to leave our cars at home and then complain their grit isn’t working due to the lack of tyres pounding the stuff into the road surfaces! What a fiasco. 

Besides, isn’t it time for traditional, archaic, glass-like grit or rock salt to be replaced by a less damaging, easier to spread, non-freeze liquid alternative?

Thank the gods that brave police officers and ambulance personnel aren’t afraid to get stuck in when snow or ice hits and accidents, injuries and deaths rise. But why is there not more support from the Fire and Rescue Service, the Environment Agency, plus our armed forces on, around or above those dangerous winter roads and pavements where civilians may be stranded, injured or worse? The personnel, 4x4s and other specialist vehicles and kit exist; we use them when fields, towns and residential areas are flooded. So let’s do the same when roads and pavements are clad in snow, or treacherously icy.

Final thing – I recently had a few top-up lessons from a highly skilled police driver turned skid-pan instructor. At the end of the programme, he quietly agreed with my conclusion that went a bit like this: the easiest, most effective, safest, least stressful way to cope with UK roads and pavements blanketed in snow and ice is to keep well away from them. Hang up your car keys and walking shoes for a few days. 

Also, remind yourself that 1 March is just around the corner. That marks the start of what should be nine months of Spring, Summer and Autumn, free of snow and ice. Enjoy.

Don't get stranded in the snow and ice - these are the best snow cars you can buy....

Recommended

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'
Car manufacturing
Opinion

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'

Steve Fowler points out the fresh issues facing global car manufacturing
9 Jun 2021
‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'
Gearknob
Opinion

‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'

Want to drive a manual car? You need to take your test in a manual car. So what happens once all driving-school cars are automatic EVs?
8 Jun 2021
'Joe Biden is now America's most important auto industry dude'
Ford F150 Joe Biden
Opinion

'Joe Biden is now America's most important auto industry dude'

Mike Rutherford thinks Joe Biden deserves praise for his hands-on approach to the American car industry
30 May 2021
'This really is a great time to buy a new car'
Opinion dealership
Opinion

'This really is a great time to buy a new car'

Steve Fowler points out some great new car deals to be had in post-lockdown
14 Apr 2021

Most Popular

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox
Dacia Duster gear lever
News

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox

With more drivers learning in autos and electric cars, the DVSA is looking to update the driving test so people can still drive manuals in future
16 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
Fiat 500 vs MINI Electric vs Honda e
Fiat 500 vs Honda e vs MINI Electric
Car group tests

Fiat 500 vs MINI Electric vs Honda e

The new Fiat 500, MINI Electric and Honda e are three retro-inspired electric superminis - but which is best?
19 Jun 2021
New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review
Audi Q4 e-tron 2021  front
Audi Q4 e-tron

New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review

We get involved with the new all-electric Audi Q4 e-tron SUV on UK roads for the first time
17 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen ID.4 GTX 2021 review
Volkswagen ID.4 GTX
Volkswagen ID.4 SUV

New Volkswagen ID.4 GTX 2021 review

VW ID.4 EV gets another electric motor and four-wheel drive in hot GTX form
21 Jun 2021
Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review
Ineos Grenadier prototype
Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review

Can the Ineos Grenadier really fill the mud-splattered void left by the old Land Rover Defender? We take a first drive in a prototype to find out...
15 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review
Nissan Qashqai 2021
Nissan Qashqai

New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review

We get behind the wheel of the larger, more comfortable and higher-tech Nissan Qashqai SUV in the UK
16 Jun 2021
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition
Ford Puma

Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed

Ford unveils a special edition Puma ST, with a black and gold colour scheme chosen by Ford fans over social media
18 Jun 2021
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power
Vauxhall Astra render
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power

The new Vauxhall Astra will get a plug-in hybrid powertrain and a more premium image - here’s how it could look
17 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen Caddy California 2021 review
Volkswagen Caddy California MPV - front
Volkswagen Caddy

New Volkswagen Caddy California 2021 review

It’s a family hauler and weekend camper all rolled into one, but is the Volkswagen Caddy California any good?
21 Jun 2021
'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'
Toyota Mirai opinion
Opinion

'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'

Mike Rutherford says hydrogen-powered cars could still be a frequent sight on UK roads
13 Jun 2021
Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services
Tesla Model 3 police car - front
News

Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services

Tesla hopes to offer UK police forces a new zero-emission emergency responder option with the Model 3 police car
17 Jun 2021