Tips for driving in dangerous conditions
The UK’s weather can turn in a moment but you’ll be better prepared for the extreme if you follow the tips below.
First published: 4th May 2016
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Driving in heavy rain and floods
Keep double the distance between you and the car in front of you, as it takes double the time to stop on wet roads.
When the road has flooded, let the car in front of you go first so you can tackle the water one at a time and keep a slow and steady pace in the middle of the road. Test your brakes are working afterwards.
Driving in strong winds
Choose a route that avoids exposed areas, as strong winds can get under the car and significantly affect its handling and braking. Use both hands on the wheel and avoid overtaking high-sided vehicles, as they could be blown into your path as you overtake. Take particular care around cyclists and motorcyclists who are especially vulnerable in high winds.
Keep an eye out for twigs or branches in the road. Take particular care early in the morning, as debris that has fallen overnight may not have been cleared yet. Avoid parking near trees or tall buildings.
If you break down in strong winds, exit the vehicle by the passenger door and move to a safe location. Lorries and other high-sided vehicles could be blown off course and veer onto the hard shoulder.
Driving in ice and snow
Ensure you have de-iced the vehicle thoroughly and you can see clearly through all windows before you set off. Only drive in ice if your journey is necessary too, as it’s best to stay off the roads when the weather is treacherous.
It may be beneficial to drive in a higher gear, as this can help your tyres to grip the ice. Stopping distances can be up to 10 times more than usual in snow and ice, so leave a large gap between the vehicles in front and drive slowly. If traffic in front of you starts to slow, brake gently – slamming them on can cause you to lose control.
If your car skids, press the clutch pedal and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid. When you start to straighten up, steer along the road. Resist the temptation to brake – it will cause your wheels to lock and you’ll skid further.
Driving in fog
Slow down to a speed appropriate to the conditions because you must be able to stop in the distance that you can actually see the road. Front lights aid your visibility so use them even in light fog. Save the rear fog lights for dense conditions and consider the vehicle behind, as you could dazzle the driver.
Be especially wary of patchy fog – one moment the road can be visible, and in an instant visibility is almost zero. Slow down gradually and give yourself and vehicles behind you time to react to whatever appears in front.
If the driver behind is too close, slow down even more to manage the gap in front and if the tailgating persists, find somewhere safe to pull over and let them pass. Don’t be tempted to follow another vehicle at speed just because they seem to be able to see.
Driving in the dark
Use your main beams to see as far as possible on unlit roads and ensure your speed is such that you can stop in the distance you can see. Switch to dipped beams immediately if you see another vehicle approaching.
Some modern vehicles have bright HID headlights that despite being legal and dipped, can make it hard to see. Don’t be tempted to flash your lights – that will only dazzle the other driver. Focus on the left hand edge of the road and try not to look at the approaching headlights. If in doubt, slow down.
In towns and cities, keep watch for pedestrians wearing dark clothing and cyclists without lights.
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