Icy Conditions: Cause Of Over 1.3 Million Winter Road Accidents In Five Years

08 December 2011

New research(2) from Sainsbury’s car insurance suggests that 13.7 million drivers are not aware of what to do if their car goes into a skid and worryingly, over a quarter (27%) of drivers who find themselves in a skid would take remedial action that would make their situation worse.

The supermarket bank estimates that around 264,000 accidents(1) could be caused this year by icy roads, with the research showing that 1.3 million drivers have had an accident in icy conditions in the past five years, with their average repair bill costing £1,773 to fix.

Icy conditions are clearly a major headache for drivers, with 22% saying they only venture out in an emergency when it’s icy, and 7% saying they won’t drive at all. The figure rises even higher for women, with more than a third (38%) saying they will either not drive at all or only drive in an emergency when it’s icy compared to 20% of men.

Ben Tyte, Head of Sainsbury’s car insurance said: “Everyone knows that driving in wintery weather can be hazardous but our study shows that a staggering number of drivers do not know how to handle their vehicles in icy conditions. It’s important to drive even more safely and be extra vigilant and with another icy winter reportedly on its way we would encourage all drivers to make sure they know the correct way to handle their vehicle in slippery conditions.”

The research also reveals that drivers in London and the south west are most cautious in winter weather, with 40% of Londoners and 31% of those in the South West saying they would not drive at all in icy conditions or would only drive in an emergency. Those in the west midlands (21%) and Wales (23%) were least cautious, saying they would not drive in icy conditions or saying they would only drive in an emergency.

To illustrate the scale of the problem, Sainsbury’s car insurance conducted an experiment in which 12 drivers were taken to a skid-pan and tested on their winter driving abilities, including being tasked to drive in simulated winter driving conditions on a specialist track without any tuition. They were then taught how to control a car in a skid and re-tested.

The experiment found that 50% were unable to safely control the car in a skid prior to getting winter driving tuition, while afterwards 91% of drivers were able to safely control the skid.

Sainsbury’s car insurance offers the following safe driving tips:

• Feeling the car slide can be very scary – if roads are icy reduce your speed and join major routes as soon as possible
• Skidding can be a big fear but driving slowly can prevent it – don’t brake or accelerate hastily, drop gears before applying brakes
If you do skid –
• Lift your foot gently off the accelerator. This will allow your car to slow smoothly and gently
• If you need to continue driving then do so slowly using a high gear. This will help you avoid hard acceleration, which could spin the wheels
• If there is no response when you turn the steering wheel and the car continues on ahead remove your foot from the accelerator. This throws the weight balance of the car forwards and helps the tyres find grip
• Take care on motorways and dual carriageways – don’t let other drivers influence your speed and don’t hug the car in front
• Take extra care around large vehicles which may not see you
• Give motorcyclists and cyclists plenty of room
• If you get stuck in ice or snow make sure your handbrake brake is on – clear the area around the wheels and apply grit or salt around the slipping wheel – use low revs to gently move away. Taking off in second gear can provide more traction.

Research: Which of the following best describes how you drive when in icy conditions:
Scot North East North West Yorks & Humber West Mids Wales East Lond South East South West East Mids
Drive with more care than normal’ 73% 59% 66% 68% 74% 74% 73% 55% 65% 66% 71%
Only in emergency 22% 31% 22% 23% 18% 18% 19% 27% 22% 18% 22%
Don’t drive if icy 5% 4% 6% 8% 3% 5% 7% 13% 6% 12% 3%
Has no impact on my driving N/A 6% 2% 2% 3% 1% 1% 2% 5% 2% 4%

Sainsbury’s Car Insurance offers a wide range of policies for UK motorists. As well as competitive premiums, Sainsbury’s Car Insurance offers customers with a Nectar card a discount of up to 15% on their premiums and double Nectar points on their shopping for two years. For further information call 0800 092 9459, visit or pick up a leaflet in store.


For further information, please contact:
Andrew Adie/Ian Morris/Sophie Woodcock
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
020 7282 1094 / 1037 / 1072

Notes to Editors:

(1) ICM asked 1533 GB adults who are drivers whether they had ever had an accident in icy conditions in the past five years and if so how much the cost of repairs had been. 1,471 respondents had not been involved in an accident in icy conditions. Average cost of repair is based on the 44 respondents who had an accident and reported the cost of repair
(2) ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 2,006 GB adults aged 18+ online between 23rd and 24th November 2011. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.  ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.  Further information at
(3) Terms and conditions apply, – Sainsbury’s new car insurance product provided by RBS Insurance is available to new customers only. Those shopping at Sainsbury’s with their Nectar card already receive points equivalent to 1% off their shopping. Holding Sainsbury’s Car Insurance or another one of the supermarket bank’s qualifying reward products, doubles this Nectar reward. A customer with a qualifying Sainsbury’s Finance reward product who spends £100 a week in store will therefore receive the equivalent of £52 worth of extra Nectar points a year.

More tips on preparing you car for winter:

Sainsbury’s car insurance vehicle preparation tips:

• Check your battery (make sure you check your car manual before you do this), monitor your oil, water and brake fluid levels on a regular basis and make sure your car has a winter service
• Check tyre condition for both pressure and legal tread depth – the current minimum legal tread depth for cars is 1.6mm
• Make sure you have antifreeze in your car’s engine – you need a 50:50 mix of antifreeze and water for maximum protection – check your car’s handbook if in doubt
• Make sure you also have antifreeze wash in your car window washers – take care not to confuse the two as engine antifreeze can damage paintwork
• Check all lights are working and any faulty bulbs are replaced
• Ensure your battery is fully charged
• Ensure your number plate is clean and fully visible
• Consider obtaining and fitting winter tyres for extra grip – though make sure you contact your insurer before doing so.

Sainsbury’s car insurance tips before you set off:

Stay alert and in control and slow down…

• Make sure you de-ice all of your windows before driving
• Take a few extra minutes to make sure all the condensation on the inside has gone too
• Ensure you remove snow from your roof, bonnet and boot as when it begins to melt it will fall off in big chunks which may distract you and cause potential hazard to other road users
• If your lock, handle or wipers are frozen use warm water to defrost them not hot
• Use your headlights in rain or snow – remember to ensure your lights are clean so that you can see and also be seen
• Don’t drive too close to the vehicle in front of you, allowing more time and distance to brake – it can take up to ten times longer to stop on slippery roads
• If driving a rear-wheel-drive car, take extra care and reduce your speed
• Where possible use major routes, which may have been gritted/salted
• Take your mobile phone – remember to ensure the battery is fully charged – consider obtaining a in car charger – don’t use your phone whilst driving unless you have a hands-free kit
• Check the weather and travel advice before you set off
• Make sure you have adequate fuel for your trip
• Consider how long your journey will take in the bad weather and plan for the unusual terrain – extend your journey time if need be
• It’s wise to make sure you have a torch, warm clothing and emergency food and drink as well as a first aid kit
• It’s a good idea to travel with a spade / shovel and grit or salt in the car in case you get stuck
• Ensure you have your car insurance and breakdown service details and emergency numbers with you.

Sainsbury’s Finance:
To view our latest press releases and product information, please visit the Sainsbury’s Finance online media centre

Sainsbury’s was the first major British supermarket to open a bank, commencing trading in February 1997. Benefiting from a fantastic, trusted brand that enables us to combine the shopping experience with personal finance, Sainsbury’s Finance provides a range of quality products including insurances, credit cards, savings and loans. Our proposition is to make shopping more rewarding by offering customers great products at fair prices, while consistently rewarding shoppers for their loyalty and being easy to do business with at all times.  Our products consistently top Best Buy tables and regularly win awards for quality, price and service.

Sainsbury’s Finance recent awards include Best Overall Online Provider, Best Online Pet Insurance Provider, Best Online Personal Loan Provider and Best Direct Home Insurance Provider at the Your Money Awards 2011.

Sainsbury’s Finance is a joint venture between J.Sainsbury plc and Lloyds Banking Group.
For further information and general Sainsbury’s Finance enquiries customers can call the freephone number on 0500 40 50 60 or visit

About RBS Insurance
RBS Insurance is the second largest general insurer in the UK1 and is wholly owned by The Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Headquartered in Bromley, Kent, it has operations in the UK, Germany and Italy.

It provides a wide range of general insurance products to consumers through a number of well known brands including; Direct Line, Churchill and Privilege. It also provides insurance services for third party brands, through its UKI Partnerships division.  In the commercial sector, its NIG and Direct Line for Business operations provide insurance products for businesses via brokers or direct respectively.
In addition to insurance services, RBS Insurance continues to provide support and reassurance to millions of UK motorists through its Green Flag breakdown recovery service and Tracker stolen vehicle recovery and telematics business.
1Based on policies in force 2010.
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