Driving in Britain means you have to be ready to drive in the rain – a drizzle or a downpour could come at any time. A bit of light rain isn’t usually a problem, but when it’s pouring down, you’ve got to change the way you drive to stay safe and keep others on the road safe too.
- Is it time to Slow Down
- Clear All-Round Vision
- Turn On Your Lights
- Be Mindful of Others
- Steering Clear of Flooded Roads
- Preparing for a Rainy Drive: Your Journey Checklist
Is it time to Slow Down
When you’re out for a drive and you start to see the rain hitting the windscreen, it’s a good idea to immediately consider how fast you’re going and how much room you’re leaving between you and the car in front.
There’s no need to adjust your driving this instant, but it’s wise to be prepared. If those initial raindrops escalate into heavier rain, that’s your cue to adopt a more cautious driving approach.
The Highway Code is our go-to reference for safe driving practices, and Section 227 gives us clear advice for these situations:
“In wet weather, stopping distances will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads because your tyres have less grip on the road.”
So, what does this mean for your driving? It’s sensible to ease off the accelerator a bit and increase the space between you and the next vehicle.
This extra distance is crucial because your car will need more time to come to a halt on the slippery surface. Remember, the wetter the road, the less grip your tyres have, and the longer it’ll take to stop safely.
Clear All-Round Vision
Rain can be a real nuisance when you’re on the road, making it tricky to see where you’re going. Depending on how heavily it’s falling, rain can slightly hinder your view or drastically reduce your visibility.
It’s essential to have your windscreen wipers on at the first sign of rain. If it’s just a gentle sprinkle, the lowest setting might be enough.
But when you’re caught in a serious deluge, possibly even a flash flood, it might be safest to find a safe place to pull over and wait it out. You should only do this, however, if it’s safe to pull over and stop.
The gloomy weather can also lead to your car windows misting up, which just adds to the problem. It’s a smart move to switch on your demisters early on to keep your windows clear.
Doing this can help you maintain good visibility and prevent it from becoming a dangerous issue. Remember, keeping your windows clear is crucial for safe driving, especially when dealing with unpredictable British weather.
Turn On Your Lights
When the rain’s coming down hard and visibility is reduced, remember that it’s not just your vision that’s affected – other drivers might struggle to spot your vehicle too.
It’s important to make yourself as visible as possible, which sometimes means turning on your headlights, even in daylight.
The best approach is to use dipped headlights; they make you visible without blinding other drivers. High beams can reflect off the wet surface and fog, causing a glare, which isn’t helpful for you or others on the road.
Plus, avoid using your fog lights unless the conditions call for it – they can overpower your brake lights and confuse other road users.
It’s also worth noting that in many vehicles, turning on the headlights also illuminates the rear lights, which is crucial for being seen from behind in a downpour. So, lighting up is a key part of staying safe when driving in heavy rain.
Be Mindful of Others
When driving during rainfall, it’s crucial to be extra considerate towards pedestrians and cyclists. Unlike motorists, these individuals are directly exposed to the weather’s whims without any shelter, making any journey challenging and uncomfortable.
Here are a few points to be mindful of in such conditions:
Give ample space: Keep a generous distance when passing cyclists and pedestrians. Splashing them by driving through puddles can soak them, which is not just discourteous but could also be seen as reckless driving.
Slow down: Reduce your speed, particularly in residential areas and narrow streets where you’re more likely to encounter people on foot or on bicycles.
Stay alert: Bad weather reduces visibility and can muffle sounds, so it’s harder to notice other road users. Always be on the lookout for cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians.
Expect the unexpected: Rain can alter behaviour. Pedestrians may dash across roads to avoid getting wet, and cyclists might swerve to avoid puddles. Anticipate such actions and be ready to react safely.
Use your lights: Even in daytime rain, turning on your headlights can increase your visibility to others, helping them to see you coming and making it safer for everyone involved.
Remember, empathy goes a long way. Imagine yourself in their position, and drive the way you’d want others to if you were walking or cycling in the rain.
Steering Clear of Flooded Roads
When navigating through or after heavy rainfall, be ready to encounter flooded sections of the road. Sticking to a sensible speed, as suggested in our first piece of advice, is crucial to maintaining control and avoiding accidents.
Here’s why you need to be cautious with water on the road:
Depth deception: It’s often difficult to judge the depth of water. Driving through deep water can severely damage your car’s engine and its electrical components. If it’s safe, try to steer around large puddles rather than driving through them.
Aquaplaning hazards: Hitting a puddle at speed can lead to aquaplaning—when your tyres lose grip on the road surface and you lose steering control. If you find yourself aquaplaning, keep calm, don’t brake suddenly or accelerate. Gently ease off the accelerator and steer straight until you feel the tyres regain traction.
- After passing through water, always check your brakes. Press them lightly while driving at a low speed to ensure they’re working effectively.
Despite rain being commonplace, it introduces significant risks while driving. However, there’s no need for alarm if you’re well-informed on handling such situations.
To be best prepared, practice driving in the rain during your learning stage. In the UK, you’re likely to experience wet weather driving, which is advantageous for gaining this essential experience.
Follow our safety tips for those unexpected downpours, and if you’re setting out during bad weather, take additional precautions:
Check your car: Before leaving, ensure your headlights, brake lights, and windscreen wipers are functioning properly.
Plan your route: Avoid roads known for flooding. Listen to traffic updates for any closed routes or warnings.
Keep essentials: Have an emergency kit in your car, including a high-visibility vest, a torch, and a raincoat.
By taking these proactive steps, you can handle the challenges of driving in the rain with confidence and safety.
Preparing for a Rainy Drive: Your Journey Checklist
When the skies open up and the rain comes down, driving requires a bit more preparation and caution. Here’s a checklist to ensure you’re rain-ready before you head out:
Stay Informed: Check local traffic updates for any flood warnings or road closures. It’s crucial to be aware of any hazards that could affect your journey.
Fuel Check: Remember, you’ll use more fuel with the increased use of windscreen wipers, headlights, and blowers in rainy conditions. Fill up your tank to avoid getting stranded.
Tyre Inspection: Your tyres are your first line of defence against slipping on wet roads. Ensure they have sufficient tread depth and are properly inflated for optimal grip.
Wiper Blades: Test your windscreen wipers to make sure they’re clearing the glass effectively. Top up your windscreen washer fluid to ensure you have a clear view.
Footwear Safety: Before you start driving, wipe your feet on the mat to remove any water or mud. Slippery pedals can be a real hazard.
Lighting Check: Confirm all your lights are functioning correctly—headlights, tail lights, brake lights, and indicators. Visibility is key in the rain.
Essential Question: Ask yourself if the journey is necessary. In particularly severe weather, it might be safer to postpone your trip.
Remember, these steps are not just about your safety, but also about the safety of other road users. Safe driving in the rain is about being prepared, being visible, and being considerate on the road.