The UK is no stranger to bad weather. Already this year, Storm Henk and Storm Isha have hit large parts of the country with heavy rainfall, strong winds and flooding.
But do you know how to keep yourself, your car and other road users safe in these conditions?
If your journey’s not essential, it’s always best to put off driving until the weather improves during severe storms, rain and winds. You can check the Met Office for local forecasts and weather warnings. For when you do need to get behind the wheel though, we’ve put together these top tips.
Driving in the rain
Prepare your car
Make sure that your car’s up for the journey before you set off. Check windscreen wipers, heaters, headlights, fog lights and tail lights. And don’t forget to check your tyre tread. Worn-out tyres will struggle to grip wet road surfaces, putting you at greater risk of skidding.
Watch your speed and distance
When the road is wet, braking distances are double what they’d normally be. And the rain and spray from other vehicles makes it harder to see what’s ahead. So drive slowly and keep plenty of distance between you and the car in front.
Avoiding splashing pedestrians
Splashing pedestrians and cyclists when driving in the rain isn’t just dangerous. It’s also an offence under section three of the Road Traffic Act 1988. If caught, you could face a fine and points on your licence. So be respectful of other road users.
Have a plan for if you break down
Breaking down is bad enough. But breaking down in a heavy downpour can be particularly dangerous if you’re not prepared. So make sure you know what to do if you break down. While awaiting breakdown assistance, it’s usually safest to get out of the car and away from moving traffic. And don’t leave your bonnet open. Rain can ruin your electronics.
Driving through water
Don't take risks
Driving on flooded roads is dangerous. You risk causing serious damage to your vehicle, yourself and other people. In fact, flowing water only needs to be about 30cm deep to sweep away a car. So, if you come across a flooded road on your journey, the best thing to do is turn around and find an alternative route.
Gauge the depth
If you must drive through a puddle or small body of water, test the depth first. Driving through water deeper than 10cm is likely to cause serious damage to your car. One way to test the depth is to get out of your car (if it’s safe) and use a stick as a gauge.
Be mindful of hidden dangers
No matter how deep, murky water on the road can hide potholes, bumps, kerbs, verges and other hidden dangers. If you can’t tell what’s beneath the surface, don’t chance driving through it.
Wait for other cars to pass
Let any traffic that’s oncoming or ahead pass through the water first. Otherwise, if the car in front of you breaks down and you’re both in the middle of the water, you’ll be forced to stop and reverse. This increases the risk of damaging your car and getting stuck too.
Aim for the middle of the road
The water will be shallowest in the middle of the road. So, if you can, use this to your advantage.
Drive slow and steady
When driving through the water, take it slow so as not to create a wave. Generally speaking, you want to aim for around 3–4mph. At the same time, keep your car in a low gear and revs up higher than usual. This will prevent water from entering the exhaust, as well as reduce the risk of stalling. Don’t stop until you reach the other side.
Test your brakes
Once you’ve reached the other side, stop your car (if it’s safe) to allow the water to drain away. Then test your brakes. They can become clogged after driving through water.
Driving in strong winds
Grip your steering wheel firmly
Strong gusts of wind can shake and unsettle your car. To prevent being blown off course, use both hands to keep a strong hold on your steering wheel.
Watch your speed and distance
Make sure you allow plenty of room on either side of your car in case you or another road user is blown sideways. Motorcycles are particularly vulnerable to side winds. You’ll also want to be extra cautious when overtaking high-sided vehicles, like lorries and caravans, as they can create their own turbulence.
Look out for debris
Windy weather means you’re more likely to encounter fallen branches and debris in the road. If you can, stick to main roads, rather than country lanes, as these are less likely to be obstructed.