Clearly, winter is not yet done and the current spate of storms and wet and windy weather shows no sign of abating at the moment. No-one could or should drive in severe flooding but more persistent wet and windy weather that is not storm force can make life difficult for motorists on a daily basis when you have to get to work, drive the kids to school or just get on with normal life.
Here is some guidance to staying safe on the roads in wet and windy winter weather.
Ask yourself, is your journey really necessary. Met Office weather warnings not to travel should be respected but what if the weather is not that severe?
Driving in wet and windy conditions always carries increased risks. At the very least, your journey is likely to take longer and you may be severely delayed by accidents, flooding or fallen trees. Your car can be damaged by falling branches or other debris resulting in a costly garage bill or insurance claim so if you don’t need to go out, then don’t.
If you are out and about and find yourself caught in bad weather or a squall, pull over somewhere safe until the worst of the weather passes. Check your route is safe particularly if you are driving long distance; you may leave home in fair weather but it could be quite a different picture several miles away.
Some top tips for adverse weather
- Strong winds and heavy rain can be as dangerous as ice and snow for a driver. Make sure you pack an essentials provision kit so if you do get stuck or have to break your journey, you are prepared. This should contain things like extra clothing -hi-viz and waterproof -some bottled water, high energy snacks like chocolate and cereal bars and a spare charger for your mobile phone
- Make sure you have sufficient fuel for your journey, you might be severely delayed or diverted due to road closures into unfamiliar areas or locations where there are no petrol stations so always make sure you have plenty of fuel for your journey
- Keep an ear on local travel reports whilst you are travelling, just tune into a local radio station in whatever area you are currently driving in
- Plan your journey, if you can, avoid exposed routes particularly if you are in a high sided vehicle or are towing. Longer routes on smaller roads can be more sheltered but you are vulnerable to debris and fallen branches and local roads can also flood more easily. Avoid low lying areas and flood plains where there is likely to be surface water on the roads
- Leave plenty of time for hold-ups and delays on your journey
- Use dipped headlights so you are visible to other drivers more easily in heavy rain
- Don’t use rear fog lights – they dazzle other drivers and mask the effect of your brake lights which can be very dangerous
- Adjust your speed – high or gusting winds can really knock the car across the road, made much worse if you are at high speed. Lower your speed and take note of the environment – if you have been driving through a sheltered area like a forest then drop you speed as you head into open country, don’t underestimate how much protection the landscape or buildings can give you from high winds
- Be aware of the impact of other motorists and their vehicles especially if you are overtaking. Large lorries passing you on dual carriageways or motorways will cause a slipstream which could affect your steering and braking so lower your speed as the vehicle passes. The effect of a gust of wind on a large vehicle passing your car can be enough to wrench the steering wheel from your hand if your grip is light or you are busy fiddling with something. Keep both hands firmly on the wheel at all times
- In wet conditions, large vehicles create huge amounts of spray which can be like driving through a waterfall – adjust your windscreen wiper speed as you are just about to pass them or they are just about to pass you
- Give large vehicles – lorries and buses – and small vehicles like bicycles and motorbikes much more room than usual, they may be affected by the wind and drift into the path of your car
- Leave extra distance between you and the car in front, allow around three seconds – stopping distances are at least double in wet conditions, the heavier the rain, the greater the stopping distance
- Don’t drive through flood water unless you know the road and are pretty certain of its depth. It is easy to get stuck in deep water in an unfamiliar area and you will also not be able to see obstructions like branches or raised manhole covers which could damage your car. Sometimes it is possible to ascertain depth by watching another motorist drive through safely. If you do drive through floodwater then wait until it is clear of other vehicles and drive through slowly with high revs to help stop water going into the exhaust. If the whole road is flooded, try and aim for the centre of the water as the camber of the road will make it deeper at the sides than in the middle
- When you park your car, if at all possible, avoid parking underneath trees or buildings where debris could work loose, fall and damage your vehicle
Towing and high-sided vehicles
If you are a car towing a caravan or horse trailer then if you do decide to travel, you should plan your route carefully to avoid exposed and high areas of country and also bridges which may close anyway in high winds. Try and keep away from routes where you will be exposed to crosswinds even if your journey time is longer and keep your speed right down. Don’t use roof boxes or storage in high winds as this will de-stabilise the vehicle further.
There is plenty of information online to help you drive safely in adverse weather conditions. It’s easy to get caught out especially if you are driving long distances.