Heavy Rain: Road Safety Advice

Posted by Simon R 17/08/2021 0 Comment(s)

If you're driving in heavy rain, you must be extra cautious, as it puts you at a higher risk of road traffic accidents. Research suggests many wet weather accidents occur because motorists fail to adapt their driving to the wet conditions.Driving in rain

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A study by insurer Churchill has revealed drivers are failing to slow down when driving in wet conditions. Analysing more than 27,000 vehicles, the research found drivers reduced their speed by an average of only 0.7% in heavy rain. Even with surface water lying on the roads, motorists slowed down by just 0.8%.

 

According to figures released by the government, around 3,000 people are killed or seriously injured annually when driving in the rain. Highways England says people are 30 times more likely to suffer a serious injury, or even a fatality, on Britain's roads in wet weather.

 

Slow down and back off

Driving too fast for the weather conditions has been identified as a factor in 11% of road deaths in the UK. Drivers are failing to adapt their driving, despite hazardous weather conditions. Even when driving within the speed limit in wet weather, motorists aren't allowing the necessary extra space between them and the car in front.

 

Highways England says people tend to adapt when driving on ice and snow, but because rain is commonplace, they don't feel the same need to slow down and take extra care. However, rain makes it more difficult for tyres to grip the road surface.

 

Drivers will also struggle to see what's ahead in heavy rain. Combined with the longer braking and stopping distance needed, particularly if water is standing on the road, this creates ideal conditions for an accident to happen.

 

Many motorists don't realise it takes at least twice as long to stop on a wet road. In addition, the number of vehicle breakdowns increases in wet weather, as it can interfere with engines and electrical systems, according to the RAC.

 

Motorists should always be prepared for the unexpected, such as a broken-down vehicle ahead. Whether it's on the hard shoulder of the motorway, or even stuck in a lane, or at the roadside, this creates an additional hazard.

 

Preparing to drive in heavy rain

Before you brave the wet weather, check your windscreen wipers are fully functional. Replace the blades if they are not up to scratch. If you have an older vehicle, upgrade if possible, to modern "aero" wipers, as they are more effective at clearing the windscreen.

 

Fill your tank with fuel before setting off. If you're stuck in heavy traffic for long periods due to bad weather, you will use more fuel. If you have your heaters, wipers and lights switched on, the fuel consumption of your vehicle will increase, so don't risk running out on the journey.

 

Listen to news bulletins before setting off to keep up-to-date with weather forecasts, flooding and road closures. Make sure you have sufficient battery life and credit on your mobile phone to check for the latest updates.

 

It's important to check your tyres have the legal tread depth so you have a safe amount of grip on the roads. If you're in doubt about the functionality of any aspect of your vehicle, take it into a garage before setting off to have it checked out properly.

 

Driving in heavy rain

Only drive in heavy rain if necessary, especially when there is flooding. Ideally, don't make a journey if it isn't important.

 

If you must go out, adapt your driving to the conditions. It's important to keep well back from the vehicle in front. This increases your ability to see ahead and plan for hazards, as well as improving your chances of stopping in time.

 

If you have to brake suddenly and the steering becomes unresponsive, it usually means the standing water is stopping your tyres from gripping the road. Never brake sharply in wet weather unless it's a true emergency directly ahead. Always ease off the accelerator to slow down gradually, braking gently in the same way.

 

The most important advice, according to Highways England, is to slow down in general. Always reduce your speed and leave extra space between you and the car in front. Use dipped headlights, as using full beam can dazzle other drivers, while it doesn't significantly improve your own visibility.

 

Similarly, avoid using rear fog lights in the rain. This can dazzle other drivers behind you and also mask your brake lights, so people behind may not realise you're slowing down until it's too late.

 

Look out for large vehicles causing a lot of spray, as this can further reduce your visibility. If you see an HGV ahead on the motorway, avoid sitting close behind it, as you won't be able to see ahead properly.

 

Keep the air conditioning on to stop the windscreen from misting up - and the rear window demister. Never set off if the car windows aren’t completely clear - don't take the lazy way out by creating a "peep-hole" in the windscreen because you're late.

 

If you should break down in heavy rain, keep your bonnet closed while you wait for the breakdown services to arrive. This way, your car's electrical system won't suffer further damage.

 

If you drive through standing water, drive extremely slowly, as your tyres could lose contact with the road. If this occurs, your steering will suddenly feel "light", meaning you are aquaplaning. To regain control, ease off the accelerator, don't brake and allow your speed to reduce naturally until you feel the steering kick in again.

 

Be particularly considerate to other motorists, cyclists, motorbike riders and pedestrians. Don't overtake cyclists or mopeds without leaving sufficient space and don't spray pedestrians by driving through puddles.

 

When it comes to driving in built-up areas, including parking, reduced visibility can also cause problems in heavy traffic. Again, keep your distance and give sufficient braking time at traffic lights, roundabouts and junctions.

 

Reversing, in particular, can be difficult in wet weather. Keep your rear window clear of condensation and if you have a rear wiper, keep it going at a fast pace. Wipe rain off your wing mirrors before starting. It's worthwhile investing in a reversing camera if your car isn't fitted with one already, as it can help you to avoid collisions when parking. Similarly, if you come across a blocked road due to flooding and need to reverse, a reverse camera can be a godsend, especially after dark.

 

Have one professionally fitted before winter sets in to help you navigate when visibility is poor.

 

Driving when roads are flooded

If the road is flooded, assess how bad it is before proceeding. This will probably mean getting out of your car and leaving it in a safe place while you approach on foot to take a look. Getting wet is better than your car being left stranded on a flooded road.

 

If the water looks muddy and you can't see the bottom, don't guess how deep it might be, especially if you're in an unfamiliar area where you have no idea of the road layout. Should you suspect the water is too deep, even if you're not 100% certain, always find another way to reach your destination.

 

While modern vehicles normally have effective door seals that might keep the water out, the water could still damage the electrics if it gets in the engine. In addition, if the floodwater gets very deep, your car could become buoyant and may get swept along, leaving you stranded in serious danger.

 

Will the weather get worse?

Unfortunately, extreme weather conditions are the new norm, due to global warming. Heatwaves, droughts, thunderstorms, heavy rainfall and flooding will all increase in the future if we don't modify our behaviour in terms of producing and disposing of waste.

 

Climate change, leading to extreme weather events, will have a major impact on our planet, according to a new report released earlier this month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Research suggests rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere will be the norm.

 

For every additional 1°C temperature rise, rainfall will intensify by 7%, causing more flooding. Scientists in China predict a 30% increase in precipitation by 2100.

 

One thing is for sure: motorists need to heed the advice of road safety organisations. Don’t be another statistic!