We’re subject at times to some very wet weather in Wales and the South West UK, mostly due to our maritime climate, so you think we’d be use to driving in bad weather. However seeing as we’ve had a fairly dry couple of months (all things considered) we thought it might be timely – with the oncoming of April showers – that it’s a good time to go over what to do when driving in heavy rain!
As a driver, sudden torrential rain can be a significant hazard on the UK’s roads so it’s important to adjust your driving style to ensure your safety – as well as the safety of other road users.
Here are some of our top tips to help you drive more safely in torrential rain:
Plan your route and check the weather
Before setting off on your journey, check weather reports for alerts and traffic updates along your route. If it’s a local trip and you’re familiar with the area then we’d – where possible – avoid areas that are prone to flooding. Also if the weather is bad as you leave you might want to wait it out instead (if there is an option to do that).
We’d also recommend if you are driving into an unfamiliar area you look at your route before you go and note if it takes you near any major water courses. Lakes, rivers and coastal areas can quickly flood and swamp a road putting you at greater risk. Checking beforehand can you give you some options if things do turn out for the worst.
Lift your foot off the accelerator and reduce your speed
Heavy rain can drastically reduce visibility, making it extremely difficult to see other vehicles, pedestrians, and road markings. Slowing down gives you much more time to react to any hazards – plus it reduces the risk of aquaplaning as well as helping cut your fuel bill.
Increase your following distance to the vehicle in front
In heavy rain, stopping distances can be up to ten times longer than in dry road conditions. Leave more space than you normally would (which should be 2 second rule in normal conditions) between you and the vehicle in front to ensure you have enough time to stop safely. We recommend a minimum of a 4 second rule in torrential rain.
Switching on your headlights will make you far more visible to other drivers in poor visibility conditions. Be careful if you have auto lights, sometimes they don’t come on when you expect them to, so you may need to turn them on manually. You can use your fog lights in heavy rain – certainly when visibility is severely restricted but do remember to turn them off when you’re out the other side of the storm, otherwise you run the risk of your fog lights dazzling other drivers when you return to clear conditions.
Avoid sudden inputs
Sudden movements like braking, accelerating or steering can cause your vehicle to skid or quickly lose traction, particularly in very wet conditions. Try to drive more smoothly and plan for traffic ahead of you to suddenly slow down or even come to a complete stop ahead.
Check your tyres regularly
It’s an easy thing to forget when we’re all so busy but it’s important you check your tyres are in good overall condition, are properly inflated to the correct PSI and have enough tread depth to reduce the chances of aquaplaning. We recommend checking your tyres once a week and if you spot any damage then take it to your nearest tyre fitters for a more professional inspection.
Do note, underinflated tyres wear out more quickly and aquaplane much more easily, something that’s unpleasant enough you don’t want to experience!
Stay out of flooded lanes on motorways
Stay in the inside or middle lanes on motorways or dual carriageways might be a safe option. During heavy rain, water can quickly pool in the outer lanes, making them more hazardous to drive on. Slowing down and staying in the inner lanes and only using the middle lane when absolutely necessary can help reduce the risk of aquaplaning.
Be aware of other road users
In heavy rain, cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians can be a lot harder to see. Be extra vigilant and if you’re behind them then give them plenty of space.
Use your radio
More of us use Spotify or iTunes to listen to music in our car these days, meaning we are more likely to miss radio broadcasts warning of bad weather in the area or indeed, further afield. Some cars radio may cut in with weather and/or traffic warnings but it’s not always the case.
If it’s safe to do so then we would elect to choose a local radio station who will be more likely to broadcast regular traffic updates and weather reporting. Sadly the UK doesn’t have a dedicated traffic radio station as the last one closed in 2011.
Pressing on isn’t always the right choice
It’s easy to think you must do your utmost to get to your destination, it’s a natural inclination, but there’s nothing wrong in deciding to pull (safely) off the road and waiting out the worst of the weather if you feel you’re out of your depth. If you’re on a motorway then make your way to the nearest service station or pull off at the nearest junction and find a local town or village to park in.
Hopefully the worst you’ll experience this year is driving through a short, sharp shower but by following these tips, you can reduce the risk of being involved in an accident and drive that bit more safely in heavy rain and other poor weather conditions.