Heavy rain is a common issue in mid and west Wales, especially during the autumn and winter months and it’s easy to forget how hazardous driving in wet conditions can be. To ensure that you stay safe, it is important to prepare for the challenges that come from wet weather.
Our roads can be susceptible to standing water, which you may encounter without much warning, if any. This presents a real danger of aquaplaning. Driving over such a surface will also greatly reduce the visibility to yourself and other road users.
Is your car ready for adverse weather?
We have put together some simple things you can do to help keep yourself safe and prepared before you set off on your wet weather journey
Check lighting to ensure you will be visible to others, remember that you may need to use fog lights if visibility is greatly reduced.
Ensure that the wipers are functioning and are in excellent condition – if your wipers are becoming streaky or noisy it may be time to get them replaced. Be sure to check that they clear your windscreen.
Ensure that your tyres are in good conditions and have a legal tread depth. The deeper the tread depth, the better your car will perform.
Ensure that you are correctly equipped, including having a charged phone, lighting and wet weather clothing just in case you encounter any issues
Stopping distances in bad weather
In wet weather, stopping distances will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads (see ‘Typical stopping distances (opens in a new window/tab’). This is because your tyres have less grip on the road. When heavy rain hits, it’s recommended that you follow highway code rule 227.
You should keep well back from the vehicle in front. This will increase your ability to see and plan ahead.
If the steering becomes unresponsive, it probably means that water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road. Ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually.
The rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen.
Be aware of the dangers of spilt diesel that will make the surface very slippery (see Annex 6: Vehicle maintenance, safety and security (opens in a new page/tab))
Take extra care around pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders.
Surface water and aquaplaning
Sometimes known as Hydroplaning, it occurs when a layer of water is created between the tyre and road. This can happen when the build-up of water is too much for the tyres to displace it.
As a result, your tyre(s) will lose grip of the road surface, causing a situation where you may be unable to control the vehicle. You will be unable to steer, break or accelerate. This is often noticed when the steering goes light, but you may also hear a change in the sound of the engine. This can be a very frightening situation to find yourself in and you should do all you can to mitigate the risks of this occurring.
There are three general causes:
Aquaplaning is more likely at higher speeds and during sudden acceleration.
Lower tread depths mean that the tyres will be less able to displace the water.
The higher the level of water on the surface the more likely that you will aquaplane.
To avoid risk of aquaplaning, slow down and prepare for the risk of sudden areas of standing water, which you may encounter without warning. Ensure that your tyres are in excellent condition. The more tread on the tyre the better.
Driving on flooded highways
Flooded roads can be encountered when we have had a spell of bad weather and it’s important that we highlight the often expensive risks and dangers of driving on such highways.
It is all too easy to unexpectedly come across flooding, especially on our unlisted and country roads and it is vital that you ensure that you plan your journey to try to avoid the area affected. Look at the local news channels and the Met Office to fully appraise yourself of the situation on the roads and plan your journey.
Vehicles do not usually cope well with driving through deep water, and the consequences can be expensive. The reason for this is that air intakes on vehicles are usually low down on the vehicle. If water is sucked into the engine through this intake, the vehicle will stall and it may cause very serious and expensive damage. You may also find yourself stranded and will then require help from specialists and the emergency services.
The best advice we can give is to plan head, and if you do happen to encounter unexpected and sudden flooding, do not proceed. Turn around and find an alternative route. Water can be deeper than it looks.
Remember the Fatal 5
- Don’t drink / drug drive
- Kill your speed
- Don’t get careless
- Belt up
- Switch it off