Driving in dangerous conditions
No matter how a experienced a motorist you are, you can guarantee that the varied weather we experience in the UK will throw up conditions that can be dangerous to drive in. The key to staying safe on the road is to be ready, both in the preparation of your vehicle and in knowing how to tackle certain driving conditions.
Undoubtedly the most common driving condition you’ll have to face, rain might not seem like much of a problem, but excess water can not only cause problems with your engine, it can make road conditions more hazardous as well. When it rains excessively, it’s a good idea to avoid areas that are prone to flooding. If you are driving in your local area, you’re probably familiar with these, but if you’re driving in unfamiliar territory, it’s worth asking a local about potential flood points.
When you’ve established a safe route, check your vehicle carefully before setting off. Make sure that all your wiper blades are working properly and that you have plenty of fuel in the tank. Remember that running the lights, wipers and heaters in your car will increase fuel consumption. Finally, check the tread of your tyres. If these are not within safety guidelines, your vehicle will be more prone to slipping and skidding on wet roads.
The most important thing you can do to stay safe when driving in the rain is to reduce your speed and to stay well back from other vehicles. Remember that speed limits are the maximum for optimal conditions and that stopping distances will be increased when the road is wet. Use dipped headlights so you can be easily seen, but don’t use rear fog lights as these can obscure your break lights. Keep your windscreen clear using your air conditioning. If you need to drive through deeper water, make sure you do so at a slow speed. Driving quickly through water can cause serious damage to your vehicle and you run the risk of losing control.
Snow and ice
Preparing your vehicle to drive in snow and ice is vital. Again, you need to check your wiper blades and tyres, fuel and oil levels. Also, it’s worth checking your car’s coolant and screenwash levels, as well as a quick check that your lights are all in working order.
Stick to main roads when the weather is icy or snowy, as these are more likely to be gritted or cleared. Driving slowly is vital in slippery conditions in order for you to maintain control of your vehicle. Remember that stopping distances can be as much as ten times greater on ice or snow and that breaking, accelerating or turning suddenly can lead to a dangerous loss of control. If your car does go into a skid, steer into it, so if the back of the car is sliding to the right, steer right. If you are going on a longer journey in the snow, it is wise to pack an emergency bag with food, drink, a blanket, a shovel and a phone charger in case you run into difficulties.
Leaves on the road, when wet can have much the same effect as ice, so when driving on a leaf covered road, reduce your speed and increase your stopping distances. You may also find that leaves cover up road markings, so take extra care on leafy roads.
As with any severe weather, an emergency kit and a mobile phone are a good idea in very windy conditions. You should also be aware that strong winds can make braking and the general handling of the car much more difficult, so reduce your speed. Expect sudden gusts on more exposed stretches of road and be wary of overtaking high sided vehicles as this too can cause sudden gusts. Hold your steering wheel firmly so that you can maintain control of the vehicle and watch out for debris that has been blown onto the road.
Driving in fog can be scary because of the reduced visibility. Make sure you know where to switch on the fog lights in your car and use them only when visibility is reduced to about 100 metres. Don’t use your full beam headlights and if visibility is really poor, wind down your windows to listen for approaching traffic at junctions.