Tips for driving in rain and floods
Read our guide on how to drive safely in the wet weather
Driving in heavy rain can be quite a stressful experience - it can reduce your visibility, cause road surfaces to become wet and slippery, and can also increase the risk of aquaplaning. And not to forget that stormy weather comes with other risks like flooding and strong winds! It’s always worth preparing yourself with the best advice on how to drive safely in bad weather conditions.
Before you set off
If it’s pouring it down, our first recommendation would be to think about whether your journey can wait until it stops. Bad weather normally causes traffic jams and accidents, so it’s usually best to wait until it’s cleared up if you can.
However, if you need to get on the move straight away, then it’s always important to follow the tips below:
- Check the weather forecast so you can be best prepared for any more changes
- Make sure your wipers are working correctly
- Plan your journey in advance, avoiding areas which are prone to flooding
- Allow extra time for traffic and slower driving
- Fill up your vehicle with fuel and make sure you have plenty for your journey
If the rain‘s too heavy and you can’t see clearly on the roads even with wipers on, it can be really dangerous. In these cases, it’s usually best to pull over to a safe parking spot and wait until the rain calms down.
Stopping distances in the rain
If it starts torrentially raining while you’re driving, start to slow down straight away. Make sure you leave enough of a gap between you and the car in front: the highway code states that you need to increase your stopping distance by 2 seconds (to 4 seconds). This is because the water can cause the road surface to become slippery, which makes it harder to brake efficiently. So, increasing your stopping distance means you’ll have more time to react if the traffic in front suddenly slows down.
How to drive in heavy rain
Even during daylight hours, it’s best to turn on your dipped headlights so that other drivers and road users can see you more clearly. If your windows start to mist up, your vision on the road decreases - so remember to turn on your air-con to demist it!
If you see large vehicles or fast cars approaching, be careful, as they might create spray from the rain which can affect your vision on the road. Of course, you should always be mindful of other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists too - as you don’t want to drive through a large puddle and drench them!
If you’re unfortunate enough to break down whilst stuck in heavy rain, remember to keep the bonnet closed whilst waiting for help, as the rain can damage the inside of your vehicle.
How to drive through floods or large puddles
Severe rain can cause flooding, and in particularly serious cases this has the potential to cause serious damage and danger to people. If you need to drive through large puddles or flooded areas, then you need to make sure you take extra care whilst doing so:
- Try to see how big the puddles are. This might mean you need to stop your car and get out to have a closer look - if you can, it’s sometimes useful to find a stick to see how deep it is
- If it’s too deep, the best option is to find another way to your destination - even if it means reversing
- If you’re sure the puddle is shallow enough to drive through, then go slowly and keep your car in a low gear. Revving your engine will also help you maintain momentum when you drive through it
- Don’t go too fast through the puddle, as you could aquaplane. If your steering starts to feel light and out of control, gradually take your foot off the accelerator to slow down (don’t use your brake) until you have full control of the steering again
- Once you’ve managed to drive through a deep puddle it’s best to pause for a moment so the excess water can drain off
- If there are cars behind you and you can’t pause to let the excess water come off, keep driving but be extra careful as the grip in the road won’t be as effective
What is aquaplaning?
There’s often a risk of aquaplaning if there’s standing water on the roads. Put simply, aquaplaning happens when there’s a surface of water between your car tyres and the road, which causes a lack of grip while driving at speed.
Aquaplaning can be very dangerous, as it can cause you to lose control of the car - putting yourself and others at risk of a road accident.
When aquaplaning, the steering will suddenly feel very light: if you can feel this happening, don’t worry - hold the steering wheel straight and gradually release your foot off the accelerator. As you start to slow down, you’ll begin to gain control again, but be careful and carry on driving at a slow speed.
The best way to avoid aquaplaning is to not drive too fast when the roads are wet, or carefully slow down if you see standing water on the road ahead. Avoid sudden actions whilst driving - such as fast turns of the wheel or sudden braking.
In more general terms, it’s always best to check that your tyres are in top condition, and be prepared to know what to do if you do aquaplane.
Driving through heavy winds
Rain can sometimes bring strong winds, making driving conditions even more challenging! Heavy winds combined with rain can mean worse visibility and are particularly dangerous for road users such as motorcyclists and cyclists, as well as large vehicles which can be affected by gusts of wind.
When driving through heavy winds, make sure you hold your steering wheel firmly, drive slowly and just like when it’s raining, increase your stopping distance to avoid accidents. Be careful when overtaking other drivers, and leave plenty of space when overtaking cyclists and large vehicles, as sudden gusts of winds can cause road users to sway in different directions.