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Drivers ‘needlessly putting themselves at risk’ by ignoring red weather warnings

More than one in six motorists admit they would not change their driving plans despite a red weather warning, a new survey suggests (Joe Giddens/PA)
More than one in six motorists admit they would not change their driving plans despite a red weather warning, a new survey suggests (Joe Giddens/PA)

More than one in six motorists (18%) admit they would not change their driving plans despite a red weather warning, a new survey suggests.

The AA, which commissioned the poll of 13,000 drivers, said people who ignore alerts about treacherous conditions are “needlessly putting themselves and their passengers at risk”.

Red warnings are issued by the Met Office when “dangerous weather is expected”, which could include snow, storms and strong winds.

A man standing next to a car stranded in floodwater
A red warning was issued in February during Storm Eunice (Jacob King/PA)

The company says it is very likely there will be “a risk to life” when these warnings are active, so people should “avoid travelling where possible”.

The UK’s last red warning for wintry weather was issued in February during Storm Eunice.

The results of the AA poll, shared with the PA news agency, also indicate that three-quarters (75%) of drivers would not change their plans for amber weather warnings, which are issued when there is “an increased likelihood of impacts from severe weather”.

High fuel costs and severe roadworks appear to be more off-putting to drivers, with the proportion of respondents who said they would alter their itinerary for those reasons being 65% and 52% respectively.

Forecasts suggest there will be widespread overnight frosts and the UK’s first major snow of the winter in parts of Scotland on Wednesday, with “blizzard conditions” bringing accumulations of up to 10cm.

The Met Office has issued an amber warning for the entire day.

A sharp drop in temperatures usually leads to an increase in vehicle breakdowns of 8-10%, according to the AA.

Mark Born, head of training at the AA Driving School, said: “Winter weather brings challenging road conditions as storms and fog bring poor visibility, while wind, rain and snow can make road surfaces difficult to navigate with an increased risk of debris on the road.

“Whether you’re a new or experienced driver, always drive to the conditions and allow extra time for your journey as there may be delays.”

He urged drivers to pack “winter essentials” in their cars, such as warm and waterproof clothes, a shovel, a torch, a fully charged mobile phone and a flask of hot drink.

The AA poll also indicated that 19% of drivers would not change their plans if their car displayed a red dashboard warning light, such as for a battery issue.

Some 58% of respondents would ignore amber lights, which include the “check engine” symbol.

AA patrol of the year Sean Sidley said: “Understanding the impact that adverse weather and poor car maintenance can have on road safety is an important part of being a safe and capable driver.

“People who choose to ignore national warnings about dangerous weather conditions and don’t adapt their driving style or travel plans are needlessly putting themselves and their passengers at risk.

“Similarly, if you’re not maintaining your car and ignore dashboard warning lights this could lead to a costly repair bill or untimely breakdown.

“Keeping up to date on servicing and paying attention to national warnings and alerts for winter weather can prevent a plethora of issues further down the road.”