Adverse weather can pose greater risks to your safety than you may think, from lower visibility in torrential rain to vehicles being blown around when it’s windy. Driving conditions are directly affected by the weather, so being vigilant is key.
It’s worth delaying your journey if weather warnings are in place or a storm is expected. Checking the weather before your journey is always a good idea; if you’re expecting adverse weather, set off earlier so you can take your time.
Heavy rain and floods
Heavy rainfall means slippery surfaces, reduced visibility and aquaplaning – what happens when your tyres lose contact with the road while driving through standing water.
Just one foot of water moving at 6mph can make a regular-sized car float, and getting 40ml of water in your engine is enough to damage it permanently.
Before setting out in heavy rain, ensure that your tyres are well inflated and that your windscreen wipers are fully functional.
Drive slowly and gently for better control, keeping roughly twice the usual distance between yourself and the vehicle in front. If visibility is poor, ensure your headlights are always on.
Do not drive through deep or fast-moving water. Avoid puddles that reach over halfway up your vehicle’s wheels as a rule of thumb.
If you drive through floodwater, do so slowly and cautiously and stick to the highest part of the road. Floodwater often hides hazards, such as open manholes and road damage.
If your vehicle begins aquaplaning and loses traction while driving through water, stay calm, ease off the accelerator and hold the steering wheel with a light grip. Then, gently guide it in the direction you wish to go.
Test your brakes as soon as possible after you have driven through water.
If you break down in torrential rain, avoid opening your bonnet until help arrives; otherwise, electrical systems may be damaged. Likewise, if you break down while driving through deep water, do not try to restart the engine, as this can cause a lot more damage. Always wait for professional help.
Strong winds are especially dangerous for high-sided vehicles such as lorries and vans, but they can be just as hazardous for passing cars, cyclists and motorcyclists. Aside from being blown off course, other vehicles may be blown into your path or debris such as uprooted trees blocking the road ahead.
Open stretches of road and bridges are the most exposed to crosswinds, so it’s always worth keeping a close eye on what’s happening to the vehicles around you.
Before travelling in high winds, see if there is an alternative route you can take with less exposure to dangerous crosswinds – like avoiding large bridges.
Maintain a good distance between yourself and other vehicles, drive slowly. Take extra care when overtaking high-sided vehicles as they cause more turbulence in windy weather. Avoid parking your vehicle under trees or near buildings in case of falling debris.