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Misplaced driver confidence brings winter road risks, AA warns

Ice, snow, freezing rain and fog are the most feared winter weather conditions but drivers’ levels of confidence do not always marry up with casualty statistics.

New research from the AA Charitable Trust has revealed the conditions that drivers are most likely to say they felt unconfident driving in, with icy roads (32%) coming in top, followed by snow (28%), freezing rain (22%), fog (22%), sleet (10%), heavy rain (7%), strong winds (6%), and finally thunder and lightning (6%).

However, while older drivers are twice as likely to feel unconfident in fog than young drivers, perhaps due to visibility (16% compared to 29%), DfT data for 2018 shows that drivers over 65 accounted for 115 casualties in foggy weather while the figure for drivers aged 17-24 was 179.

However, young drivers are far less likely to feel confident than older drivers in snow (27% compared to 43%) and ice (26% compared to 35%). And the casualty figures do show there was over three times as many drivers and riders aged 17-24 who suffered injuries as the result of a crash in snow than those aged over 65; perhaps an indication that confidence in these conditions comes with experience.

Male drivers were considerably more likely to say they felt confident driving in any wintery weather condition than female drivers. Yet Government figures show there were nearly twice as many male driver/rider casualties in snow as female in 2018 (see table below).

Edmund King, director of the AA Charitable Trust, said: “Most parts of the country have felt the first bite of winter now and drivers need to adapt their driving to suit the conditions.

“It’s really interesting to look at drivers’ levels of confidence in conjunction with casualty statistics.

“There are some demographics who say they feel confident in various wintery conditions, but they are also more likely to have a higher casualty figure in crashes in those conditions.

“Either their confidence is mis-placed or those drivers who do not feel confident in those conditions simply do not drive in them – and therefore contribute fewer casualties.

“The overall message for drivers should be one of caution – some wintery weather conditions are really best avoided unless absolutely necessary – however confident you feel driving in them.”

Breakdown of total casualties for 2018 by age and gender demographics:

Total casualties (rider/driver over 17) Male Female 17-24 Over 65
Fine + high winds 598 346 179 115
Fine no high winds 53692 27150 14777 7512
Fog or mist 314 122 100 33
Other 1349 771 395 113
Raining + high winds 673 373 207 83
Raining no high winds 6822 3730 2211 831
Snowing + high winds 209 142 56 15
Snowing no high winds 505 351 170 56
Unknown 1581 850 448 156
All high winds 1480 861 442 213
All raining 7495 4103 2418 914
All snowing 714 493 226 71

Data extracted from Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2018

Written by Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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