Driving in Bad Weather

The diverse weather of the British seasons makes for an unpredictable driving experience. Even on the calmest, clearest day, bad weather can strike and force you to reconsider your travel plans. The best advice when bad weather conditions of any kind occur is not to drive at all. However, if you must drive, you should be fully prepared.

Preparation:

Is your journey really necessary? If it is a visit to a friend or the supermarket that you can leave till tomorrow, then do so. If you must go, plan for the extra time it will take, as well as the extra stress and concentration. Worrying about being late will only have a worse effect on your driving. Tell whoever is expecting you what time you should arrive, taking into account the extra time so that they will not worry unduly, but will also be able to call for help if you have not arrived.

Listen to weather forecasts on the TV and radio to assess the situation and find out any danger spots. Put warm clothes, boots, food, drink and a torch in the car. If it is snowing, take a spade. Make sure your windows and mirrors are clear and remember to pack your de-icer.

Drive with extra care and attention. Snow, rain, hail, and fog all reduce visibility. Use dipped headlights and leave additional space between your car and the car in front.

The Car – It is particularly important that you check that your car is fully functional and well maintained during the winter. Ensure that your battery is charged and that your tyres have the correct pressure and tread. Keep the windows, mirrors and lights clear of ice and snow, and make sure that the lights and wipers work well. Add some anti-freeze to the radiator as an extra measure.

Driving:

In Ice & Snow – On an icy road, always drive slowly. It can take ten times longer to stop than on a dry road. Using a higher gear will help avoid wheel avoid spin.

Carry out manoeuvres gently with no harsh use of the brakes or acceleration. Stamping on the brake can cause it to lock and lose control. If the car has rear wheel drive and you skid, braking may cause it to continue skidding in a straight line. Braking in a skid with front wheel drive could cause the car to spin.

To avoid skidding, apply gentle but consistent pressure to the accelerator and slow your speed at corners and lane changes. If you do skid, release some pressure on the accelerator and steer a little into the skid, straightening up as you gain control.

To minimise the risk of losing control, don’t make abrupt manoeuvres, and try to drive in the tracks that the car before you has created.

As well as the weather itself, also beware of the road maintenance measures in place to help you overcome it. Salting vehicles spread salt to dissolve ice over all lanes of the motorway. They drive at around 40 mph, and they should not be overtaken. Keep a good distance behind to avoid salt spray. Snow ploughs can cause irregular snow piles as they travel, so drive well them also.

In Fog – Drive very slowly in fog, and keep headlights dipped. Remember that fog drifts and is patchy, so don’t speed up quickly even if it looks like it is clearing; you may find yourself right back in the thick of it. Don’t just rely on following the car lights in front; you could end up driving too close.

If the fog seriously impedes visibility, turn on the fog lights. Switch them off as soon as it has lifted though. Rolling down the windows may help in that you could hear other cars before you can see them.

In Rain – It takes longer to stop on wet weather roads than dry roads due to the lack of grip by your tyres. If you feel that the steering is not responding, slow down the car gradually.

Hydroplaning is what happens when the tyres lose grip on the road and slide up along water build up between the road and tyre. If this occurs, steer straight and take your foot off the accelerator. As it slows, the car will engage with the road again.

Keep a good distance between you and the car in front. This allows for the greater stopping distance and will stop your visibility being hindered by spray. Also bear in mind that while splashing in puddles may be fun, they can also disguise potholes and other obstacles.

In Flooded Roads – If the water is deep, do not attempt to cross it. If it is manageable, drive slowly through it in first gear. Try to steer away from the kerb if possible, as this is where the deepest water usually lies. Once you are through, test your brakes first before driving away.

In A Storm – In lightening storms, it is safest to stay in your car. Do not park under trees and be watchful for any debris that falls onto the road.

If You Get Stuck:

Getting stuck or breaking down in bad weather conditions on the motorway can put you in a precarious position. Just stay calm and don’t put yourself in any more danger. On a motorway, using the emergency phone rather than your mobile is advisable, unless you know exactly where you are. Numbers on the marker posts on the hard shoulder will help recovery services locate you.

Once you have called the recovery service, return to your vehicle not only to stay warm, but also as abandoned cars may impede the passage of rescue vehicles, snowploughs, or salting vehicles. When leaving your car at any time, try to stay well clear of the road and make sure that other drivers can see you.

Finally, the most important piece of advice for when you must drive in bad weather is to pull over if you need to. Driving in heavy rain, snow, hail or fog requires great concentration, so if you find yourself getting tired you may be putting yourself and any passengers in danger. Pull completely off the road in safe spot and rest, especially if the weather is terrible. It will be better to be a bit late and wait out the bad spell rather than drive tired and confused, and possibly cause an accident.