As we approach winter, the challenges facing road safety charity Brake and its Road Safety Week campaign (19-25 November) become all the more visible as conditions become cold and wet, the threat of snow prevails and icy tarmac becomes the norm. However, some fleet managers are not doing enough to ensure the safety of their drivers.

Fleet managers have a duty of care responsibility to make sure that the safety of drivers is a paramount concern. However, the dangers of winter driving are often underestimated and cannot be tackled simply by fitting winter tyres onto vehicles.

Winter tyres certainly have a place in improving braking distances in cold weather, which can help to reduce accidents or their severity and it is generally considered that winter tyres will reduce braking distances when operated at temperatures below 7°C.

However, although temperatures in the UK can fall below freezing, our relatively mild winters, compared to the Continent where winter tyres are a legal requirement, mean that fitting such tyres in October when the clocks change, and removing them again in April, will result in them being operated consistently at temperatures outside their optimum range. At higher temperatures, wear rates increase over those of conventional tyres, increasing the risk that tread depths fall below legal minimum levels unless regularly checked.

In countries where snow and ice abound, dedicated snow tyres are available with an alternative tread pattern designed to reduce slippage in such conditions. These are unlike winter tyres which are generally marketed in the UK which have a different formulation of rubber and silica in their compound to the “summer” tyres normally used. This provides a more abrasive surface in lower temperatures, but will still result in vehicles skidding on snow and ice. They should not be considered as a convenient solution for addressing dangerous winter driving conditions

If fleet managers are to make a significant impact on reducing accidents during winter months, they need to start with driver training. Compulsory driver education will equip drivers with the skills to take into account road conditions and amend their driving habits accordingly. Better knowledge and skills are invaluable in improving safety standards.

Common sense should also be applied. Snow and ice, combined with dark and wet nights, are far from ideal driving conditions. Fleet managers must work with HR teams and management to ensure that drivers follow travel advice and avoid unnecessary travel in dangerous conditions. It is better to avoid accidents in the first place rather than take the risk.