We can’t always predict the winter weather in the UK. Although the romantic image is of crisp winter mornings and deep snowdrifts, that’s rarely what happens. A far more common scenario is for heavy rain and flooding. There’s plenty of advice about what to do when driving in snowy and icy conditions, but in many situations, rain can be as dangerous as snow if not more so. Here’s what you need to know about being prepared for driving in adverse weather.
Can I Delay?
At any time of year, drivers should pay attention to weather warnings and heed advice from the local police. If you’re advised against all but essential travel then take this advice seriously. Try to delay your journey until the worst of the weather has passed, take public transport instead or just change your plans and go elsewhere. Heavy rain can also lead to congestion on the road as drivers slow down, so bear in mind that if you do decide to travel, the journey might take a lot longer than expected.
The one piece of advice which everyone should remember about driving in the rain is to slow down. Braking distances are doubled when the weather is very wet. If you don’t leave enough space between you and the car in front, then if they brake sharply you won’t have time to react. This is especially the case on the motorway, where spray created by large lorries can create very dangerous driving conditions. If the rain is so torrential that you can’t see properly, then pull over until the weather improves.
The other main hazard to be aware of is the risk of standing water. When it rains very heavily, the drainage system becomes overwhelmed and this can lead to pools of water collecting on the side of the road. It’s impossible to see how deep the pool is when you drive into it, and especially in the dark the depth of the water can be very deceptive. Even if it’s not that deep, there’s the risk that your car aquaplanes, or loses control as the wheels stop turning and you skim over the surface of the water rather than drive through it. If you feel this happening, take your foot off the accelerator, don’t brake and allow your car to slow gradually until you regain control.
A well-maintained car won’t make any difference to the weather, but will reduce the chances of you getting into real difficulties. The most important aspect of the car in the rain is the tyres. Think about it – these four pieces of rubber are all that’s keeping your car in contact with the road. It’s the job of the tyre tread to channel the water through the tyres and away from the car, making sure you are gripped firmly to the road at all times. The law states that all tyres should have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. If your car tyres are more worn than this, you are risking not only health and wellbeing, but also your driving licence.
Although tyres are the most important thing to look at on your car, other aspects of car maintenance shouldn’t be neglected either. It’s not enough just to book your car in for its annual MOT check and think that a pass means that you can just ignore all maintenance issues until the same time next year. Get into the habit of making sure lights are working properly and that you have effective window wipers before setting out. Regular servicing will ensure that your car will withstand the worst that the British winter can throw at it.