The dark, wet and cold months can be the most treacherous on the road – with motorists more likely to be caught off-guard by the unpredictable conditions.
And a survey of 2,000 motorists has found that 35% admitted to driving off with their windscreen either misted up or still covered in ice over the past 12 months – an offence punishable by a £60 fine and three penalty points.
One quarter of those polled by Halfords Autocentres said they had put their car at high risk of theft by leaving the engine running and popping back inside while the windscreen clears.
Around 16% have reversed their car despite having zero rear visibility while 14% have risked mechanical damage by over-revving a cold engine.
It also emerged more than a fifth have risked cracking the windscreen by de-icing it with warm or hot water while a quarter have driven with snow on the roof, which could potentially cover the windscreen after braking.
Temperatures are set to fall, with the Met Office predicting some parts of the UK will be hit by snow and ice.
But more than a quarter of the motorists polled have not carried out basic checks on their car over the past month because of the bad weather.
Worryingly, 55% haven’t looked at their tyre tread over the past month while half haven’t checked the tyre’s inflation.
This is despite tyres making up 58% of all ‘dangerous defects’ recorded in the latest MOT results from the DVSA.
It has also emerged that one in 10 motorists aren’t confident in their ability to drive in wet or icy conditions.
“A lot of the UK has had a mild and wet winter so far but with cold weather on the way, we strongly advise motorists to take precautions to keep themselves and their passengers safe,” said Aaron Edwards, from Halfords Autocentres.
“Its imperative people ensure their windscreen is fully cleared before setting off, not only is it a legal requirement to be able to have a clear view of the road, it is vital for the safety of all road users.”
Halfords is offering a free winter check in its shops and Autocentres to motorists who want peace of mind about their car’s roadworthiness.
Separate research by OnePoll for Halfords revealed that one in 10 motorists (9%) have driven around with faulty wiper blades over the past 12 months, while 8% have knowingly carried on driving with a broken brake light.
The survey also showed how many motorists aren’t keeping many key items in their car in the event of a winter driving emergency. Just 27% store a blanket in their car and 33% keep a torch. Only 35% have a first aid kit while 36% have a mobile phone charger.