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Driving in Hazardous Weather

Car Safety Tips for Driving in Poor Conditions

There are a number of hazardous weather conditions that drivers should be prepared for which include torrential downpours, freak storms, flooding, heatwaves, and snow blizzards to name but a few. Extreme weather can cause dangerous driving conditions, for some of which not everyone is prepared.
It is important to learn how to prepare for such weather conditions to help to minimise the risk of damage to your vehicle and increase your chances of remaining safe. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind.

Driving in every season

The key to driving safely in severe weather is to ensure that your car is in top working order. This means always conducting a pre-journey check before any long trip and to properly maintain it for those shorter distances. Always be sure that the lights are working on your vehicle, your windscreen wipers are functioning, and the battery is fully charged. You may also, however, want to check your tyre pressure, visibility of number plate, mirror positioning, spare tyre and its condition, fuel levels, and the level of water and oil. It is also a good idea to keep a mobile phone, blanket, food and drink, and a first aid kit in the car for added safety.

Heavy Rain

  • When you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet), use your headlights when visibility is seriously reduced. Use front or rear fog lights but you MUST switch them off when visibility improves.
  • Replace your windscreen wipers if worn or damaged to improve your visibility in wet weather.
  • Be conscious of your distance when driving, and double the distance you leave between your car and the car in front.
  • Reduce your speed to ensure that your tyres do not lose grip with the road.

Floods and Standing Water

Please only drive through water if you know the depth and it is not too deep. Never try driving through fast moving water as your car could be swept away.

  • Reduce your speed and drive slowly and steadily to avoid creating a bow wave and to ensure your tyres do not lose contact with the road. If you lose connection with the road and 'aquaplane' hold your steering wheel lightly and lift off the throttle until tyres regain contact.
  • Test your brake as soon as you leave the water to make sure they are still functioning.
  • Considerate other pedestrians and cyclists when driving though standing water. You can be fined or receive penalty points for driving through standing water and soaking surrounding pavement road or pavement users.
  • To avoid damage to your car's exhaust try driving in a low gear, so that your car's engine rev's are higher.

Winter Driving

Treacherous driving conditions accompany the winter, and when a snow storm occurs, those conditions can become even more dangerous. Check the in-car heating system and make sure your window demister works properly and it is a good idea to keep a de-icer and scraper in the car at all times.

In such conditions, you should always keep a safe distance between you and the car in front and drive at a reduced speed, as your braking distance will increase dramatically. If necessary, you may need to use rear fog lights in low visibility.

Man-made structures such as bridges and overpasses will often be affected by ice and snow before other surfaces, so plan ahead. In the winter, it is a wise choice to avoid changing lanes frequently. During the strong winds of winter, take care when passing cyclists, motorcyclists, and large lorries.

Summer Driving

Many drivers do not consider the hazards of summer driving, but there are many. The interior of cars can quickly get too hot for humans and animals, so cars must be properly ventilated.

Many drivers benefit from putting a sunscreen on the back window. During extreme heat, the car itself may also overheat, so check water levels in the engine and radiator.

Some road surfaces may even soften, or melt, in high heat, which will affect steering and braking, so drive with care. Lastly, invest in a good pair of sunglasses as glare is a factor most people forget.