The simple rules to remember that can make your journey easier and safer when driving in the wet
With forecasters predicting a wet and stormy Christmas getaway, the prospect of driving in heavy rain is rearing its head once again for many in Britain. For many, it’s a daunting task, and no wonder – rain not only reduces visibility, but also the amount of grip your car has, increasing stopping distances.
But drive along a motorway in heavy weather, and it’s clear that for others, the opposite is true; many of Britain’s motorists are so over-confident in rain that they barely modify their driving style to suit, if at all.
That’s why we’ve put together a guide to driving safely in wet weather. If you find rain scary when you’re on the road, then following these key pointers will help you stay safe. And even if you’re confident in the rain, have a read through, and check you’re driving as safely as you could be.
Adjust your driving style
Cast your mind back to your driving test, and you’ll remember that stopping distances increase in the wet. But can you remember by how much?
In actual fact, it takes about twice as long to stop on a wet road as it does on a dry one. So you should increase the distance between you and the car you’re following by about that much.
A good rule of thumb is that you should be around four seconds behind the car in front of you if the road is wet. That way, if that car has to stop suddenly – or worse still, crashes into a car in front – you will have time to stop, or take avoiding action.
To check you’re far enough away, watch for the car in front to pass an object – a lamp post, bridge or sign. Then count how many seconds go by before you pass the same object. If it’s under four seconds, you should back off and allow more space.
Driving in the wet isn’t just about leaving more space, though. You should also try and avoid sudden moves that might unbalance the car, such as sharp steering or braking. Doing so increases the likelihood of your car skidding.
Keep an eye on what’s around you, too. And remember that large vehicles kick up more spray, so if you’re about to pass one, you should be prepared to increase the speed of your windscreen wipers to compensate.
Also, if another driver is following you too closely or driving aggressively, don’t be tempted to react. It’s easier and safer to concentrate on your own driving, perhaps pulling over to let them go on their merry way if you’re able to, than to do something provocative that might cause them to crash into you.
What to do if you aquaplane
You might have heard of the term ‘aquaplaning’, but be uncertain what it means. It refers to what happens when your car’s tyres encounter lots of water that’s standing on the road – more than they can clear.
The result is that the water builds up under the tyre, lifting it away from the road surface. Once it loses contact with the Tarmac, you’re effectively ‘surfing’ along on top of the water, with little or no grip.
You can usually tell if you’re aquaplaning because your steering will suddenly feel light and unresponsive, and you can hear the displaced water roaring against the inside of the car’s wheel arches. If it happens to you, resist the temptation to brake – doing so will almost certainly cause you to skid, which could have disastrous consequences.
Instead, you should stay as calm as you can, take your foot off the accelerator pedal gently, and allow the car to slow down by itself, while keeping the steering pointing in the direction of travel.
Eventually, the tyres will bite down through the water and come back into contact with the road, at which point you should regain control.
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