Driving in the rain is a guarantee in the UK and Ireland, with rarely any month avoiding getting a shower. While driving in sun glare is challenging, it's driving in rain that can cause more havoc on the roads. It’s important to realise that once the rain falls driving conditions change instantly and so should your driving habits, regardless of how experienced you are or what you drive, driving in the rain will pose new dangers. Here are our top tips to stay safe.
- Plan Your Journey in Advance
If you’re aware of heavy rainfall in advance then it’s best that you plan your journey out before you set off. Know the route you want to take and if it will be effected by flooding, if so try to avoid it. Check for traffic delays and make sure you let friends or relatives know the route you are going to take in case of an emergency.
- Check Your Wipers & Your Tyres
You should be checking your wipers every 6 months to ensure they are working optimally. During the warmer summer months the sun can cause them to dry out and crack, so checking the condition of the rubber before the wetter winter months set in is essential. Also, with our weather, over-use is a common occurrence so make sure your wipers are ready for the rainy journey. Here's our simple wipers DIY guide on how to change them yourself, it really is a 1 minute job! Next you need to check your tyres. Contrary to popular belief the deep treads on your tyres do not provide grip, those channels and grooves are there solely to disperse water, allowing the smooth rubber sections of the tyre to maintain contact with the road and that's what provides the grip. On a wet road, If your tyre treads are worn out, there is nowhere for the water to go and the tyre ends up 'floating' on top of the water. This is known as aquaplaning and can cause a total loss of steering and braking ability! So in wet weather, the deeper your tyre treads the better.
- Fill Up
Last thing you want when driving in the rain is having to stop in the rain! Make sure you have enough fuel in the tank before setting off.
- Use Your Lights
Once on the road, make sure you turn on your dipped headlights. Rain reduces visibility so you need to ensure you’re visible to other road users, both vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.
- Slow Down & Keep Your Distance
It goes without saying that you need to slow down when driving in the rain. Wet weather brings slippy road conditions, particularly after a dry spell, so your braking distance is reduced with a higher likelihood of a skid. Slowing down will ensure better control of the car should you lose control or the vehicle in front of you brakes suddenly or gets into trouble. Remember it takes twice as long to stop on wet roads than dry roads so make sure you at least maintain that ‘3 second rule’ but we would recommend increasing this to 4 seconds in the rain. On top of slowing down and maintaining your distance, try and avoid any sudden movements or sharp steering as doing so will increase the likelihood of a skid.
- Keep Your Windows Clear
Heavy rain coupled with high humidity can cause your windows to fog up inside the car. If you have air conditioning, turn up the heat and direct it towards the windscreen to keep all windows clear. Even if you haven’t a/c, pointing warm air to the windscreen will help keep it clear.
- Beware of Spray
Spray will come off every vehicle on the road when it's wet, but it’s amplified the larger the vehicle is. Be aware of the additional spray when either overtaking one or having a large vehicle pass you in the opposite direction. Often additional road dirt will spray up as well, so it’s important that you prepare to give your windscreen an extra wash after it to ensure they are fully clean
- Avoid Using Cruise Control
A very nice feature to have in dry weather but one that increases the risk of losing control in wet weather. Why? If the car starts aquaplaning, which occurs when a layer of water build up between the wheel and the road leading to a loss of traction and the inability to control the car, as the car is going at a constant speed you can’t slow down and so it makes the aquaplaning worse. The best way to get out of aquaplaning is to slow down and not braking as this makes skidding worse. So avoid using cruise control in wet weather so you can slow down quickly if needs be.
9. Beware of Pedestrians & Cyclists As your visibility diminishes in the rain, awareness of your surroundings must increase. Most importantly paying attention to other road users who are most vulnerable i.e. pedestrians and cyclists is vital. They too will have challenges on the road in the rain, and may have to avoid puddles and floods by stepping or swerving into your path. Slowing down when you see them and being aware of any sudden movements should avoid any accident. When over taking, ensure you leave plenty of room between you and them and try not to splash them!
- Responding to a Skid
No matter how careful you are there might come a time when you get a skid and lose some control of the car for example if you take a corner too hard while driving in the rain then you’re more than likely going to skid. The best strategy to controlling a skid is to remain calm and follow these instructions: If the front wheels skid:
- Ease off the accelerator and start to brake
- Do not more and more steering lock
If the rear wheels start to skid
- Look straight ahead at your travel path down the road
- Ease off the accelerator
- Do not brake (even though your instincts will automatically kick in and make you want to)
- Steer the direction your car is sliding to straighten up.
It's important to slow down and be more aware while driving in the rain. Lazy driving could result in an accident, so plan your journey, stay alert and in control of your vehicle at all times.