As winter arrives, the roads become more dangerous, putting you, your customers and your taxi at risk.

While you can’t stop the wind, sleet and snow, you can take smart safeguarding measures, minimising the chance of accidents or damage occurring on the job.

Of course, you can never rule out every scenario, which is why reliable cover is a must-have.

Taxi Insurer understands that your taxi is more than just a vehicle: it’s an investment in your future.

Our specialist taxi insurance is tailored to fit around your business and budget, so you have peace of mind you’re protected, come rain or shine.

We know a thing or two about life on the road, so take a look at our top winter driving tips and stay safe behind the wheel this winter.

 

How do I protect my vehicle during winter?

Let’s start with the fundamentals.

If your vehicle is in shoddy condition, you’re automatically putting your clients (and yourself) in an unsafe situation, not to mention shortening your taxi’s lifespan.

A frosty windscreen from the inside of a car

Consistent vehicle maintenance is even more important during the winter months. Alongside securing  taxi insurance, follow our five-point maintenance checklist for prime taxi health:

 

1. Shovel off snow

It’s not fun, but it’s necessary. An exhaust pipe stuffed with snow can result in lethal carbon monoxide being pumped into your taxi.

Once the white stuff melts, it can also have a detrimental effect on brake seals and pads, triggering a leakage of hydraulic fluids.

 

2. Listen to the engine

Keep your ears open for any abnormal rattles or groans – if you hear any, it’s time to get a professional to take a look.

 

3. Rinse your vehicle after driving

Once the cold weather hits, the gritting lorries will be out in force.

Once the salt mixes with snow and turns to slush, it forms a corrosive cocktail, damaging various parts of your taxi as it melts.

Make sure you rinse your vehicle at the end of each day, sluicing off any salty residue.

 

4. Take care of your tyres

Maintain the correct tyre pressure or risk punctures, a weakened grip on the roads and diminished braking capabilities.

Incorrect pressure can also affect tread depth: treads below the legal limit (1.6mm) hike up your risk of accident and injury.

 

5. Clean your plates and lights

You’re legally obliged to ensure your lights and number plates are visible. Take the time to wipe them off daily, keeping them clean and unobstructed.

 

How do I keep my tyres safe?

A piece of ice in the tread of a vehicles tyres

The roads are icier and more slippery during winter, due to low temperatures and increased rainfall.

As we mentioned, it’s vital to maintain the correct tyre pressure at all times – the recommended level can be found in your vehicle’s handbook. According to TyreSafe, under-inflated or illegal tyres play a part in 1,200 road casualties every year.

Healthy tyres make a huge difference to road safety, decreasing the chance of skidding and improving your taxi’s stopping distance.

Tyre pressure is directly linked to tyre tread, as it helps to facilitate optimum contact between your vehicle and the road.

Worn tyres with a tread below 1.6mm aren’t just incredibly dangerous: they’re illegal.

If you’re caught driving with illegal tyres you could be slapped with three penalty points and a £2,500 fine – per tyre.

For a strong grip on the road, you want to maintain a tread of no less than 3mm.

You can check your tyre tread by inserting a 20p coin into the main tread grooves of a tyre.

If you can see the coin’s outer band upon insertion, you need to get your tyres looked at by a professional immediately.

 

How do I make my vehicle safer?

Once you’ve ensured your taxi is in optimum nick, don’t forget to take the following safety measures:

 

Check you have a full tank of fuel

What could be worse than running out of fuel on a freezing winter’s day? Before you set out on your shift, make sure your taxi has a full tank of fuel.

 

Have a sat nav and maps to hand

A good quality sat nav will inform you of any accidents and updates related to your chosen routes, so it’s a useful investment.

In case your sat nav has operational issues, have a selection of good, old-fashioned printed maps to hand as well.

A persons arm over a map

Clean your windscreens and windows

Your taxi gets covered in dirt and grit galore during winter driving jobs. The ground is muddier, causing your windscreens and windows to get grimy at a faster rate than they would during drier, warmer months.

A dirty windscreen means impaired visibility – a huge no-no when driving. It’s dangerous enough when you can’t see the road ahead: it’s even more dangerous when you’re driving in winter weather.

Clean your windscreens and windows daily, making sure you have full visibility before transporting customers from A to B.

 

Stock up on de-icer

Make sure you always have an adequate supply of de-icer, plus an ice-scraper.

Driving off with a windscreen partially iced over makes for poor visibility, increasing the likelihood of an accident occurring.

Scrape off any ice before you depart or risk a fine for careless driving if an obscured screen causes you to have an accident.

 

Bring a winter driving kit

You should also keep a well-stocked winter driving kit in your taxi.

This should include:

  • Enough blankets/warm clothing for you and your passengers
  • A warning triangle
  • Adequate food and water supplies for your taxi at full capacity
  • Torches
  • High-vis vests for you and all passengers
  • A snow shovel
  • A portable charger and fully-charged phone

 

Tips for safe driving in the winter

A snowy road in a country area at sunset

While it’s essential to take preventative measures before you even hit the road, if you don’t drive safely an accident is highly likely.

So, how do you drive safely in winter weather?

 

Plan, plan, plan

First, cover your cab with specialist taxi insurance – this should be in place from day one of your career behind the wheel.

Check the weather on an hourly basis when you’re on the clock. Winter weather is known to take sudden, unpredictable turns; you want to avoid getting caught in dangerous driving conditions at all costs.

If weather warnings have been issued, your decision is simple: don’t chance it. You’ll be putting yourself, your customers and your vehicle at risk – no fare is worth that.

You should also pre-plan driving routes, ideally transporting customers to their required destinations via main roads, as these are better maintained during wintertime.

Winding country lanes are less likely to have been gritted, and if you meet oncoming traffic you could face tricky manoeuvres.

Isolated roads also tend to have a weaker phone signal, so if you break down you could find yourself in a dangerous position, especially during stormy weather.  

 

Block out distractions

Of course, you want to provide first-rate customer service. However, safety-conscious drivers will block out any source of distraction when driving, especially when working in harsh weather conditions.

Winter brings heavy rain, strong winds and ice, so when you’re behind the wheel, your attention must be completely focused on the road ahead – hazards and unforeseeable weather can spring up in an instant.

Let customers know that you’ll need to concentrate fully on the journey at hand, answering any questions before you set off or upon arrival at their chosen destinations.

Avoid having loud music playing and don’t tolerate disruptive or irresponsible passengers – safety takes top priority.

 

Slow down

Whether or not your customer has a plane to catch, safety comes first. If you’re driving on wet, icy or snowy roads, it’s important to slow down, keeping your eyes peeled for temporary speed signs.

According to road safety charity Brake, rainy driving conditions can double your stopping distance, while snowy, icy roads can cause a ten-fold increase.

Black ice is a silent killer, as it’s basically undetectable: even if a particular stretch of road appears clear, it may not be, causing vehicles to skid.

Likewise, corners can trigger significant skidding, so take any twists and turns slowly and maintain even steering.

Fog is another wildcard, disappearing then reappearing at random – another reason to slow right down on misty days. When driving in strong winds, it’s also best to take it slow and steady.

A car driving on a road through a foggy, snow covered field

Drive in high gear

Minimise the chance of wheel spins by driving in the highest gear possible, starting off in second gear.

Use first gear when driving along flooded roads, maintaining a high engine speed, as this helps to prevent water creeping into the exhaust.

 

Accelerate and brake gently

Coming to a sudden halt or speeding off can cause skidding, so avoid both at all costs.

When you need to stop, drop into a low gear earlier than you normally would, lightly braking and gradually decreasing speed.

If your vehicle starts to skid while you’re driving, resist the temptation to slam on the brakes.

Instead, steer gently into the skid, not against it, lessening pressure on the accelerator, until you get control of the taxi again.

In the event your taxi seems unresponsive to steering, gradually slow down: you could be aquaplaning. Find a safe spot and pull over and check your brakes are still working properly.

 

Leave plenty of space

As we know, winter weather means extended stopping distances, so make sure you leave ample room between your taxi and the vehicle in front.

Heavy rain can spray off other vehicles, affecting your visibility, so staying further back helps minimise the impact of this. 

When driving uphill or downhill, try to wait until the road is clear, as it’s best to drive at a constant speed, avoiding gear shifts and stops.

In high winds, try to put considerable distance between your taxi and motorcycles, as well as high-sided vehicles.

 

Avoid revving in snow

If you’re unlucky enough to get stuck in the snow, avoid spinning your wheels or revving your engine, as this will only make your vehicle more entrenched.

It’s best to shift into the highest gear you can, rocking the vehicle back and forth until it edges out. If this fails to do the trick, call a rescue service straightaway.

You and your customers should stay safely inside the taxi until help arrives or move to a safe position away from traffic if you’re on the motorway.

A side-angle of a car driving through a snow covered country lane

Light up

If the weather affects your visibility, consider using your front and rear fog lights.

Do remember to switch them off once things improve, as they’re incredibly powerful and can dazzle oncoming cars.

 

Stay extra vigilant

Alongside ensuring you’re protected with dependable taxi insurance, make sure your overall health and eyesight are up to snuff.

Driving when you’re unwell, tired or suffering from impaired vision is highly dangerous and greatly increases the chance of an accident.

While drivers should be alert at all times, bad weather conditions make the need for vigilance even stronger.

Keep your eyes peeled for hazards such as pedestrians, fallen branches and oncoming vehicles. If you can, avoid driving across flooded roads entirely, especially if another car is approaching.

 

Know your limits

If a customer makes an unrealistic request, you are well within your rights to refuse it.

Staying safe is more important than keeping customers happy, so if you’re asked to drive somewhere that puts your wellbeing in jeopardy, say no – you’ll be keeping your passengers safe, too.

 

How can I improve customer experience?

Here are some additional tips on improving the customer experience during winter taxi runs:

  • Keep rubber mats inside your vehicle, regularly drying them off with an old towel – this prevents customers from slipping and injuring themselves.
  • Try to maintain a comfortable temperature inside the cab ­–­ but not too hot, or you could become drowsy.
  • Let customers know you’ll be driving extra cautiously during bad weather: this will reassure them that they’re in safe hands.

Protecting your future

A snow covered road in a woodland with cars driving slowly

While you can take plenty of precautions on winter roads, you can never entirely eradicate every risk.

Weather, roads and other drivers can be unpredictable, which is why it’s vital to protect yourself and your business with specialist taxi insurance.

Taxi Insurer is here to help. Our policies can be arranged to fit around your specific needs, vehicle and budget.

After all, you never know when an accident or injury might occur leaving you saddled with hefty bills – mechanical, medical or legal.

Safeguard your future and get a quote today.

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