1. Think – do you have to go? Either delay your journey or re-plan your route
If it is already raining heavily before you have left ask yourself if the journey is really necessary or if you can wait until conditions are better. If you need to travel think about your usual route and avoid any areas that may be particularly bad or prone to flooding. This could make your route longer but it is better to take more time and be safe then not make it at all. Allow extra time too so that you can drive slower and takes into account any potential congestion too.
2. Do some safety checks on your car
There are a number of basic safety checks that you can do on your car to make sure it’s fit for wet weather. For example, check your tyre tread – 1.6mm is legal however at least 3mm is recommended. Tyres have a huge impact on how effectively your vehicle stops, handles and steers. If tyres are worn, they’ll have less grip, making it harder for you to control your car in wet weather. Tyres should always be inflated to the level set by your vehicle manufacturer (check your handbook if unsure) to maintain good handling and encourage equal wear and tear. It is really important to get your tyres changed as soon you notice so that you are safe if rain decides to fall.
One of the key items of a car when it rains are the windscreen wipers. Check that both your front and rear wipers work if not replace them. This is a really quick and easy job but will make a huge difference when driving.
Do your light bulbs work? You want to make sure other drivers can see you as well as you seeing the road clearly when rain falls heavily. Again this is a quick and simple job to complete if a new job needs fitting.
3. Slow down
During wet weather stopping distances double in wet weather. Allow yourself more time and distance to stop the car by driving slower and increasing the distance between you and the car in front. Usually, you leave a ‘two second’ gap between you and a motorist but increase this to four seconds in bad weather. Pick a landmark such as a tree or a lamppost and see how long it takes you to get there after the car in front has passed it.
4. Wait for your windscreen to demist
Your windscreen doesn’t just mist up when its icy, it does when its wet and humid outside too. Make sure your windscreen has completely cleared of condensation before you set off to make sure you are safe and legal.
Turn on your air conditioning system to clear your windscreen in the quickest way possible and keep it on throughout your journey to stop it misting up whilst driving.
5. Use your lights
You want to make sure other drivers can see you – even in the middle of the day – so make sure you turn on your lights. Depending on how bad the rain is you could use your main lights or side lights too but make sure you dip your headlight to avoid dazzling other drivers.
6. Think carefully before driving through large puddles
Don’t go ploughing into every puddle you see. Some can be very deceiving and much deeper than they look. If you drive through the wrong puddle it could cause some serious damage to your vehicle. Try and assess how deep the puddle is by using a stick or similar object if you can’t see the bottom or choose another route.
If you feel the puddle is shallow enough to drive through do so in the lowest gear and drive through slowly. Once through, pause for a moment if possible to allow any excess water to drain away. If this is not possible just bear in mind that your grip on the road will be reduced as you emerge from the puddle due to water in your tyre tread. To get rid of some of this, try brushing your brake pedal very gently. This will generate heat that helps to evaporate the moisture.
7. Resist the urge to brake if you start aquaplaning
A big risk when it is wet is aquaplaning. It happens when water builds up under your tyres. Once your tyres lose contact with the road, you have little to no grip. You will know you are aquaplaning as you steering will feel unresponsive.
Your automatic reaction may be to hit the brakes, but this is the worst thing to do as it could cause you to skid. Instead, allow your vehicle to slowly reduce speed by itself by removing your foot from the accelerator. Keep your steering aligned with your direction of travel. In time, your tyres should re-establish contact with the road, giving you control of your steering again.
Driving in wet weather can be a challenge but the tips above should ensure you remain as safe and comfortable as possible.