But as ever on the way there and back I witnessed some of the worst driving I’ve ever seen in this country. Because I actually think that as a nation we’re pretty good behind the wheel until the weather turns bad. Then, without fail, two things happen. First, everyone owning a car with four-wheel drive automatically assumes this provides immunity against the conditions. I was driving along a dual carriageway of which just one lane had been gritted watching as Range Rover after X5 after Porsche Cayenne came piling past at 70mph, effectively on snow. Then, sooner or later, one of these goons will come across someone else driving a small, little hatchback at about three miles per hour on a completely straight road. And you can guess what happens next.
So how to stay safe? If you have to go out, before you buy an expensive or even a cheap 4x4, just ask yourself if you’d not be better off in every single sense of the phrase if you just got some winter tyres. Not long ago I did a battery of tests on two visually identical Skoda Yetis. The only differences between them were that one had four-wheel drive, the other had winter tyres. And the results were staggering: the 4x4 Yeti on standard tyres had better traction so was quicker to accrue speed. In every other way I could measure both objectively and subjectively it was nowhere. It couldn’t go around corners anything like as fast and under braking, the results were horrifying. Slowing from just 20mph, which at times can barely seem like moving, the 4x4 Yeti took 22.5 feet further to stop than the front-driver on winter tyres. And that could easily be the difference between a small scare and a big accident.
Another myth is that whatever you drive in grim weather, it must not only have four-wheel drive, it must be big. Why? Large means heavy, and heavy means more mass to accelerate, slow and make change direction, which means more work for tyres already hard pressed by adverse conditions. So yes, it will probably protect you more if you do hit something, but if you believe that prevention is better than cure, you should probably be looking at something that minimises the chance of having the accident in the first place.