Living in the UK we are very used to driving in the cold and wet weather however bad weather may not seem like the most pressing safety concern for many drivers. Driving in severe weather not only significantly increases your risk of being involved in a dangerous situation, it demands your complete attention which may mean turning off your radio completely and ensuring your full attention is only on the road. Of course staying off the road completely in severe weather is often seen as the best option in terms of safety, however this is not always possible so we’re on hand with our top tips for driving in the winter months.
Driving in Heavy Winds
We might hear it broadcast across our car radios but let’s be honest, we tend to only listen to the heavy wind reports when the weather is bad enough to potentially disrupt our journey. However, what seems like a minor risk is actually very important to us drivers when out on the road as we can be caught up in heavy winds at any time. Areas such as open motorways and tunnels act as funnels for wind so you must be careful to think ahead of the conditions you may be driving into.
- Our first top tip is to anticipate gusts of wind and take care when driving through areas where weather reports predict severe weather. For example, if you’re headed up to the mountains for a winter break, take extra care of the roads on the way up.
- Secondly, be careful around certain vehicles such as high-sided vehicles and HGV lorries as these are more susceptible to high winds – especially when empty.
Finally, as the power of the wind can physically move a vehicle, it is important to keep a firmer grip of your steering wheel in windy conditions for maximum safety.
Driving in Heavy Rain
Alongside driving in windy conditions, another thing we should be used to now is driving in wet weather. However, when it comes to heavy rain, it’s not only the loss of visibility we have to contend with, hydroplaning is another concern and we have to be prepared. Hydroplaning occurs when a vehicle is travelling too fast and rather than gripping onto the surface of the road, the tyres grip onto a thin layer of water. You may have heard this also referred to as aquaplaning however there are steps you can take to prevent this.
- Slow down: our first top tip is take your time. We repeat, take your time. The only way to prevent your car from aquaplaning in heavy rain is to slow down rather than rushing to your destination. If your car does aquaplane, it makes steering and braking very difficult and can potentially lead to you losing control of your vehicle completely. If your steering becomes unresponsive, this generally means your tyres have lost grip of the road and the best thing to do is to ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually without hitting the brakes too hard – this can cause your car to skid out of control.
- Tyre tread: Secondly, it’s important to regularly check the tread depth of your tyres. Tyre tread is designed to give the best possible grip on wet roads however over the years, the tread on your tyres will wear and you will need to regularly check it. In the UK, the minimum tread depth is 1.6mm across the central ¾ of the tyre and can be checked using this 20p test. In the UK, if your tyres fail to comply with the minimum tread depth, you could face a £2,500 fine and up to 3 points on your license for each illegal tyre so we urge you to check them regularly and especially before long journeys in the rain.
- Keep a safe distance: aside from the spray from the vehicles in front, it is very important to keep your distance from other vehicles as your stopping distance will increase in wet conditions. In normal conditions, if you were driving at 50mph, your braking distance would be 53 metres (made up of 15m thinking distance and 38m braking distance) however in wet conditions this is doubled.
Driving in Ice and Snow
Last month we shared a blog on preparing your car for winter so now that your car is winter ready, here are our top tips for safe driving in the snow and ice. As with heavy wind and rain, unless your journey is absolutely necessary, don’t embark on long journeys in the snow. If your journey is necessary, ensure you check all weather bulletins in advance and ensure you have your winter car kit ready as we chatted about on our previous blog. Before setting off, you must ensure all windows have been cleared of snow and ice, all windows and mirrors are demisted, your headlights are in full working order, number plates are clearly visible and all snow has been cleared from the roof of your car as when travelling at speed, this can fall off and obstruct the vision of drivers behind you.
When driving it ice or snow, it’s important to take into consideration these advisories:
- Drive with care even when roads have been gritted / snow removed
- Braking distances increase by more than 10x in icy conditions so take extreme care. For example, if you are driving at 50mph, your standard braking distance will be 53m however in icy conditions it could be as much as 530m.
- On your journey, be sure to listen to weather reports for your destination and be prepared for the eventuality the weather may change as your proceed.
- Take care when overtaking vehicles.
When driving on icy roads, you should drive slowly in as high a gear as possible and if you have to brake, do so extremely gently to prevent the car from skidding. If you are driving on country roads or roads with lots of bends, best practice is to brake progressively as you approach the bend and steer smoothly into it. Finally, when driving on ice, your tyres will make little to no noise as they have very little contact with the road so knowing the normal sound of your car will alert you to any irregularities.
Do you have any top tips for driving in wind, heavy rain, snow and ice? Let us know over on Facebook or Twitter. If you’re still to get your car winter ready, check out previous blog post here.