Kwik Fit | Tuesday 19th November 2019 11:00am
With figures from Highways England suggesting that around 3,000 people are seriously injured or killed on UK roads each year when it is raining, itís clear that wet weather can represent a serious risk to drivers. So what can you do to avoid accidents when the heavens open? The following seven tips should help you to stay safe in a downpour.
1. Postpone your journey or rethink your route
Firstly, if itís raining heavily before you set off, ask yourself if you really have to make the journey. If you can, delay your trip until the conditions are safer. If you do have to travel, take care to avoid areas that are at a particularly high risk of flooding. Even if this makes your route longer, it could help you to stay safe. Give yourself extra time to complete your journey too. This is to allow for slower driving and potential congestion.
2. Do some safety checks on your car
There are a number of basic safety checks that you can do on your car to make sure itís fit for wet weather. For example, itís important to pay attention to your tyre tread. Although the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm, safety experts recommend having at least 3mm. Your tyres have a huge impact on how effectively your vehicle stops, handles and steers. If they are worn, theyíll have less grip, making it harder for you to control your car. This means itís vital that you get them changed before they become unsafe. Always keep your tyres inflated to the level set out in your vehicle handbook too.
Also, make sure that both your front and back windscreen wiper blades are functioning properly - if theyíre not, replace them. This is quick and easy to do, and it could make a big difference to your safety behind the wheel. Take a look at your lights as well to see if all the bulbs are working. Itís particularly important that other drivers can see you clearly in torrential rain.
3. Slow down
Even with a good set of tyres, stopping distances can more than double in wet weather. This means youíll need more time and distance to bring your car to a stop. So, when itís raining, make sure you reduce your speed and leave a bigger gap between yourself and the vehicle ahead.
Instead of following the Ďtwo second ruleí, try to leave four seconds between you and the car in front. In other words, when the vehicle ahead passes an object, such as a lamppost, four seconds should elapse before you pass that same object.
4. Wait for your windscreen to demist
When itís wet and humid outside, itís more likely that your windscreen will fog up, especially when youíre starting your car from cold. Even if youíre in a rush to set off, avoid the temptation to do so before your windscreen has completely cleared of condensation. Driving without a clear view of the road ahead is illegal and dangerous, so itís never something you should risk.
The quickest way to demist your car is usually to turn on the air conditioning system. This draws the moisture out of the air. Keep your air con on while youíre driving to prevent your car from misting up while youíre on the move.
5. Use your lights
If itís raining heavily, make sure you use your lights - even in the middle of the day. This will help to make you more clearly visible to other motorists and pedestrians. Depending on how severe the rain is, you can use your headlights or sidelights. Make sure you use dipped headlights to avoid dazzling other drivers and, for the same reason, donít turn on your rear fog lights.
6. Think carefully before driving through large puddles
If you find yourself approaching a patch of standing water, think carefully before you drive through it. Puddles can be much deeper than they look and driving through them incorrectly could do some serious damage to your car. Even if it means getting out of your vehicle, try to size the puddle up first. If itís muddy and you canít see the bottom, you might need to use a stick or another object to find the lowest point and assess how deep it is. If you think itís too deep, find another route.
If the water is shallow enough for you to travel though, put your car in a low gear and move forward slowly - keeping your engine revs high. When you reach the other side, pause for a moment if possible to allow any excess water to drain away. If you canít do this, bear in mind that your grip will be seriously compromised as you emerge from the puddle due to water in your tyre tread. To get rid of some of this, try brushing your brake pedal very gently. This will generate heat that helps to evaporate the moisture.
7. Resist the urge to brake if you start aquaplaning
Aquaplaning is a big risk in wet conditions. It happens when water builds up under your tyres, lifting them off the surface of the tarmac. Once your tyres lose contact with the road, you have little to no grip. You can usually tell if youíre sliding like this because your steering will feel unresponsive and lighter than normal.
Your instinctive reaction when you realise this is happening may be to hit the brakes, but this is the worst thing to do as it could cause you to skid. Instead, try to gently remove your foot from the accelerator and allow your vehicle to slow down by itself. Keep your steering aligned with your direction of travel. Eventually, your tyres should re-establish contact with the road, giving you control of your steering again.
Thereís no getting around the fact that driving in wet weather can be a challenge, but as long as you bear these suggestions in mind, you should be able to minimise the risks and reach your destination safely - if a little later than originally planned.
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