You Could Be Fined for Not Defrosting Your Car

Here's how to avoid fines and an invalid insurance policy.

author image-cai
By Cai Bradley
Updated on Monday 16 November 2020

Person de icing their car with an ice scraper during winter

As winter approaches, the amount of people being hit with fines for not clearing their car of frost, ice, mist and snow properly is expected to surge.

While it can be an inconvenience and tedious routine to go through every morning, defrosting your car is a must if you want to avoid the risk of fines, points on your driving licence, and an invalid insurance policy.

Penalties for failing to defrost your car

If you fail to clear your car properly of frost and snow, you risk the prospect of three penalty points on your driving licence and a fine of up to £60, as you are essentially breaking the ‘unsafe driving’ section of the Highway Code.

The Highway Code states that you must completely clear all windows and demist your car before starting any journey. You could consider yourself unlucky to be caught and fined, but leaving even a patch of frost or snow on your windscreen could lead to a fine.

You’re not a tank commander – you need full view of the road to drive safely, so be sure to avoid driving without fully de-icing and demisting the windscreen (sometimes referred to as ‘potholing’), as temperatures plunge over the winter months.

Can you drive with snow on your roof?

Although it’s not technically illegal to drive with snow on your roof, you could be fined for ‘driving without consideration’ or ‘using a motor vehicle in a dangerous condition’ if it falls onto your own windscreen and blocks your view, or if it falls into the path of another vehicle and causes an accident.

Penalties for ‘driving without consideration’ can reach a £100 fine and nine points on your licence, while ‘careless driving’ cases can be taken to court and carry a maximum fine of £5,000 in more serious instances where an individual is badly injured or a serious accident occurs.

Protect yourself against these possible fines by removing snow from your car’s roof with a large household brush, or a specific snow removal tool.

Car idling and insurance: Is it illegal to idle your car in the UK?

Many people go out first-thing in the morning and start their car’s engine to warm it up and defrost the windscreen while they go back into the house for a coffee, but doing so could land you in some serious trouble.

Leaving your car engine running unattended – known as car idling – not only increases the risk of your vehicle being stolen, but it could also invalidate your insurance.

Such thefts are so frequent during winter that the police have even coined a specific name for them – ‘frosting’. Think about it; you leave your car unattended, out of view, with the keys in the ignition and the engine running, ready for thieves to take with minimal time and effort… it’s not the smartest of moves!

Car insurance companies often invalidate policies if they’ve been taken under those circumstances, because leaving your car unlocked and unattended goes against the ‘duty of care’ clause that most providers include within their cover terms and conditions (especially with the keys in the ignition and the engine ready and waiting).

While it might be tempting to stay in the house while the car warms up and demists, it’s a thief’s dream scenario and – worst of all – your insurance policy is unlikely to cover you.

There are many other, more responsible, ways to clear your car of any mist or frost…

How to defrost car windows and windscreens 

The best way to defrost your car windscreen over winter is by using a trusty de-icer spray and frost scraper.

Many companies offer winter essentials gift packs, which consist of an all-seasons screen wash, de-icer and an easy-grip ice scraper, which could be the perfect Christmas gift for the drivers in your family this year. 

Tip: You can now get ice scrapers with hand mittens so that your hands stay dry and warm while you scrape the ice from your windscreen!

Yes, you might need to wake up 10 minutes earlier for work, school, university, or wherever else you need to go, but doing so will save you the inconvenience of potential fines and penalty points on your licence, and will also reduce your risk of having an accident during the winter months.

Remember, driving in a red weather warning does not void your car insurance, despite the common misconception. However, you should always remain sensible when driving in wintery conditions.

See our full guide to driving in winter or browse our library of articles and resources for more information.

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