Car insurance expert warns of the simple mistakes that could invalidate your cover in winter

Insurance boss urges drivers to avoid simple errors that could affect insurance payouts and even lead to legal trouble

The current icy weather has brought a spike in insurance and breakdown claims as drivers struggle on the roads.

Insurer NFU Mutual said it had received twice as many accident or breakdown notifications on Monday compared with a usual day and the RAC reported its busiest day on record, attending the equivalent of eight call-outs per minute.

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December traditionally brings a jump in insurance claims due to more difficult road conditions but the recent cold snap appears to have caught drivers out, leading to a surge in minor and more serious collisions, and an associated rise in insurance claims.

It’s a legal requirement to have car insurance but with difficult conditions on the road, the chances of being involved in a collision increase, so it’s vital to make sure your insurance is valid and covers you for all circumstances.

Contrary to some internet rumours, you won’t invalidate your insurance simply by driving in snowy conditions. Car insurance remains valid, even during severe weather warnings. And fitting winter tyres won’t affect your cover either. However, there are certain things drivers can do in winter that could see an insurer reject a claim.

Lorna Connelly, head of claims at Admiral Insurance warns that ignoring basic maintenance and simple rules of the road could invalidate policies, leaving drivers facing large bills if their car is damaged or stolen or even facing prosecution and fines.

She told National World:  “It’s no surprise that the winter months are some of the most challenging for driving. Our data shows that the highest number of accident claims happen in winter months – in fact all of the worst days to drive are in the darker months between November and January.

“Hearing cold weather reports on the news is an immediate red flag that we drivers need to prepare for trickier conditions. And with a Met Office cold weather warning in place, it’s important drivers take extra care.”

The first step to taking care of your car and your insurance is being alert when you defrost your vehicle. Lorna says: “Never abandon your car with the engine running and keys in the ignition. Stationary idling is an offence under section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and could leave you with a £20 fine and could even invalidate your insurance if an opportunistic car thief makes off with your vehicle.”

Tyre checks are also crucial at this time, according to Lorna, who says: “Driving with illegal tyres could land you with a £10,000 fine (£2,500 per tyre) and you could receive 12 points on your licence. Having illegal tyres could also affect an insurance claim if the tyres were attributed to the cause of the accident.

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“It’s worth considering changing to winter tyres if you can as they can make driving in icy conditions safer and they don’t impact the cost of your insurance.”

Although insurance remains valid when driving during a weather warning, insurers urge drivers to be cautious and follow local police and council guidance on where and when it is safe to travel.

A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers said: “We would urge all drivers to pay close attention to advice from local authorities and the emergency services in areas affected by snow – particularly where there is a red warning.

"People’s safety is paramount. However, social media rumours that motor insurance will be invalid if people drive during a red warning are not true. Motor insurance will cover you in the usual way, providing you are driving within the law."

But Kevin Pratt, consumer affairs expert at MoneySuperMarket warned: “If your insurance company can prove contributory negligence on your part, your claim might be questioned, and any payout reduced. For example, if you drove into a swollen ford where there was a warning in place [or] if you went down a road in contravention of official road closure signs and were subsequently involved in an accident.”

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