OK, so if there’s one thing we all know it’s that the UK gets a lot of rain in winter. And that can make driving a little scary. Especially for learner drivers and those who’ve just passed their test. So, in this blog, we’re going to talk about the things you need to know to stay safe in the wettest of weather.
How to Drive Safely in Wet Weather Conditions
The main things you need to know about driving in wet conditions is that it reduces your visibility and increases your stopping distance. So, how do you deal with that?
- Check your tyres. The legal tyre tread depth is at least 1.6mm. When you’re learning to drive, it’s your instructor’s duty to ensure that their car adheres to this rule. When you’re driving independently, you need to ensure that your vehicle’s tyres comply.
- Make sure your wipers are working. Whether you’re having a driving lesson, taking your test, or driving independently, if it’s raining it makes sense to you check that your wipers are working before you set out.
- Drop your speed. If it’s harder to see and it’s going to take you longer to slow down, it’s fairly obvious that you need to drive more slowly to accommodate wet conditions.
- Maintain a four second gap. In normal driving conditions, it’s recommended to maintain a two second gap between you and the vehicle in front. In wet conditions, you need to double that.
- Use your headlights sensibly. Unless visibility is very low (less than 100m), you should keep your headlights dipped. This will make sure that other drivers can see you, without running the risk of dazzling them. In very poor visibility, switch to full beam, dipping as soon as conditions improve.
- Be aware of wet leaves and other skidding risks on the road. Wet leaves and other debris can be just as hazardous to drive over as standing water, preventing tyres from gaining traction. If you feel that you might be losing control of your car, ease off the accelerator and allow the car to slow naturally until you feel that you’ve regained control. Braking might be your gut reaction, but it can actually make your vehicle lose balance and that’s where accidents happen.
- Avoid puddles. Yeah, sure, it can be fun to make a splash. But the thing about puddles on the road is that you simply don’t know what’s beneath them. If you want to keep your tyres intact and avoid losing control of your vehicle, you need to steer clear of puddles where it’s safe to do so.
- If you can’t avoid flood water, drive steadily. The best thing to do with flood water is to avoid it. But if you can’t, and you’re certain of the depth – you might have seen another vehicle pass through, or have a view of the kerb or other marker – you need to maintain a slow, steady speed. Keeping the car in first gear with the engine steady is the best way to avoid stalling. Driving too fast is likely to cause a wave, which could flood the engine and leave you stranded. Keep to the centre ground, as flooding is usually deeper at the edge of a road.
And remember that it only takes a foot of water to float the average car, so if in doubt, don’t risk it.
- Test your brakes. If you’ve driven through standing water, it’s always sensible to test your brakes as soon as it is safe to do so. So, once you’ve exited the flood water, check your mirrors, then apply the brake. If your brakes work, you’re fine to continue, if not, you’ll need to pull over and call for help.
If you’re worried about driving in rain or other winter conditions, talk to your DGN instructor for personalised advice. You can also check out the DVSA Winter Driving ebook for the official UK guidelines.