Driving standards – they leave me cold!

Mike  Humble 

A (dead) Skoda Felicia: the Makers of Happy Drivers so I gather

You know, one of my favourite all time monthly publications is VIZ magazine, blessed with characters including Johnny Fartpants – The Fat Slags – Biffa Bacon and many other smile raisers – if you have never sampled it you really must give it a try! 

Anway, for me, the best part of this adult comic for me is the Letterbox page. Some letters are obviously made up, but some are hilariously funny. One such letter I remember was regarding that annoying yet, at the time, addictive show Noel’s House Party. A reader wrote in stating that if, Noel Edmonds started the show five minutes early, he wouldn’t have to run and rush around like an idiot everywhere – daft but oddly true! 

This brings me neatly to my moan of the week. This past week here in leafy Sussex (along with most of the UK) we have been subjected to some pretty bad weather, namely snow and ice. Everything just stopped: planes, trains, local buses. How those poor folk in Sweden and Finland manage, I do not know – well, actually I do – they just bloody well get on with it. 

I have been driving for over 21 years and hold both an LGV and PSV licence, so it would be fair to say I have driven a mixed and varied type of vehicle. This past week, I have been left utterly speechless (my other half would disagree though) with the standards of driving I have witnessed. I have seen it all – letterbox sized de-iced windows , driving to fast, countless vehicles with only one headlamp working, abandoned cars half on the footpath, excess speed with minimal skill and so on. Every year it’s the same carry on whatever the weather. 

Too much rain? We flood. Too much sun? There’s a hosepipe ban. Too much dark? Everyone gets SAD or ME. It’s all pathetic really and watching everyone running around like headless chickens dragging sledges to the shop buying every loaf of bread is comical and makes me ashamed to be British – it really does! 

Imprisoned under a duvet of snow- a great car yearning to escape

I was stood down at work last Thursday but, on Friday, I had to go in and help sort the depot out for vehicles that were being used on Saturday. Flask of coffee, plenty of fags and spade in hand, I set out to to try and find my little Rover which was buried under 18in of snow and head off to work, leaving 30 minutes earlier than the normal – take note Edmonds! 

My prat of the week award goes to the man in the Network Rail van who thought that driving less than 10ft from my rear bumper whilst negotiating a steep icy downhill road was acceptable. He then tried to overtake me 200 metres short of a roundabout and almost put the oncoming car into a ditch and forced me to put the nearside of my car into the bank of ploughed snow – boy that stops you quick I can tell you! 

However, one thing is a fact: my bloody Rover is a Trojan in this weather. I popped it into reverse and the damn thing just backed out with only the slightest bit of wheelspin and the remaining five miles went without incident. Maybe I am a glutton for punishment, but I love driving in the ice and snow. It could be the sense of achievement of getting there or maybe it’s because you have to apply and use your skill and experience in doing so. 

All I do know is people don’t drive to their abilities or skill, too much speed and scant consideration to other road users seems to be the current trend. Until it becomes legal for me to fit a 10ft steel spike to the front and back of my car, I’ll keep vigilant for the other pillocks I have to share the road with. 

I am pleased to report that the return journey home went without a hitch. Well, apart from some fatal-sounding noises from the transmission. During the day, the temperature had dropped dramatically. The compacted snow and slush from the morning’s incident had frozen into the wheelarch and the subsequent knocking and banging nigh on gave me a heart attack as I thought the differential had failed – imagine my relief! 

The cause of my near heart failure - compacted ice and snow!
Mike Humble


  1. “How those poor folk in Sweden and Finland manage, I do not know.”

    Simple – the Scandinavians have far more predictable weather than we do and can guarantee that they’ll have conditions like this every year without fail.

    However, here in the UK, if you’re from anywhere south of Yorkshire, you’ve not seen snow this regularly since the ’90s… Do you realise that there are people driving in snow now who may never have had a white Christmas before in their lives?

    • Taken on board but here’s a thought. Drive with a complete disgard for others and apply no caution as evidenced above and people run the risk of never seeing another white Christmas!

      It’s all about slowing down and using common sense – oh hang on, forget that last bit. Common sense has since been replaced by health and safety!

  2. The snow did, at least, get the UK into German news again 😉 However, I have proof that you have had snow in the UK before: about 20 years ago, I took a nice photograph of my Maxi covered in snow while visiting London!

    The early start of winter has not been painless here in Germany either. I think – regardless of driving skills – main roads and motorways that are just capable of keeping the traffic flowing (or not) in good weather are bound to get clogged with huge traffic jams in bad winter conditions.

  3. Is it just me, or are older cars much better in the snow? I spent much of last winter driving around in a more or less brand new Mazda 6 and it was a bit of a nightmare – too much weight and power and too many systems like traction control making a difficult job harder.

    However, this year (after redundancy), I’m driving around in a 16 year old Peugeot 205 diesel. It takes everything in its stride (and it doesn’t matter if you ding it a bit either). Just start in second and off you go. The heater’s better too…

  4. Well, if you think winter driving is bad in the UK, try living in Spain. Here, in Galicia, which has similar weather, the slightest gust of wind, downpour or, heaven forbid, sleet and snow, and it’s total chaos.

    Schools close, crashes galore, crazy selfish driving, even worse manners than usual – they are already non-existent in Spain, no one uses indicators, says thank you, stops at crossings, let’s you in etc, etc.

    Let’s, perhaps, have a little less whingeing and just spare a thought for us stuck here in grotty Spain – never be ashamed to be British again!

  5. Modern cars are useless in snow – ESP and ABS try to interfere with all the things drivers should know how to use for snow driving, low profile tyres made of compounds that appear to return to oil form in low temperatures and isolating, cosseting cabins that disguise every bump, rattle and rut.

    The best cars I’ve driven in snow have been a Citroën Dyane, a Fiat Panda 4×4 (with some very abusive on-the-fly changes when the going got slippy – dog clutch to engage the rear drive and no centre diff, so you couldn’t use 4×4 on mixed tarmac/snow easily) and an original VW Beetle in which I got lost around Otterburn, thinking I was driving down a backroad to Bonchester Bridge and had actually driven down some forest tracks in deep snow only to pop out at Otterburn on the A68!

    My biggest complaint about drivers in winter is really the lack of commitment. Your BMW is now slithering up that hill because you didn’t plan ahead and commit. You tried to tiptoe up it. Similarly, if I’m at the bottom of a hill, don’t then pull out from behind a parked car dithering your way along. I’m going to go up that hill and do not want to stop half-way up to let you gingerly slither into the opposite pavement, so either stay or go, but quit dithering!

    I will apologise for the missing headlight though – my Jeep got water in one headlight so I had to finish a journey with only one after it exploded a bulb. I fixed it the next day before heading out again, but it’s possible the people you’ve seen with missing lights didn’t start out that way and may not do another trip like it :D. The number of people that flashed me got tiresome – I am perfectly aware when my headlight fails, just as I’m sure these people are aware their foglights are on when the road is reflective, shiny and not remotely foggy.

  6. Oh, and winter driving in Canada makes Britain seem utterly incompetent. 160Km/h from Toronto to PEI a few years back, with one half of the car on packed ice and one on cleared tarmac (Dodge Durango 4.7). What was surprising wasn’t that we were maintaining that speed in those conditions – we were being passed by 2WD pickups.

    We’ll get there. Tyre dealers will start to import the right tyres and market them. People will learn how to drive.

    They’ll still buy all the damn bread in Tesco though.

  7. My Mini copes fine in the snow, although I don’t tend to risk it unless I have to – I’d rather have someone hit the Xantia instead.

    I did, though, have a similar problem with the snow build up around the wheels last January. I got all the way to work fine but then had to turn into our industrial estate which has a hill and I just couldn’t get up that.

    It wasn’t until I got out to look that I realised there was snow built up around the back wheel – it was like I’d got the handbrake on. Anyway, I dug the snow out and away I went again!

  8. Sometimes these guys get their come uppance. Back when the factory just off J34 on the M4 belonged to Bosch (it’s Renishaw now), somebody came off a winter night shift and cleared a letterbox sized slot on the screen of his Fiat Strada. On the main road up to the M4, he hit the back of a 7 tonne truck which had stopped for the driver to sleep (he had done his hours overnight). The damage wasn’t too bad until a lady colleague hit his back end with a Maestro, and rippled his roof! The police came along and had to wake up the truck driver, who had slept through both collisions.

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