Driving in heavy rain and wet conditions can be both stressful and dangerous.
As well as the constant spray from other cars, reduced visibility and longer stopping distances, there’s also the risk of encountering deep puddles or even flooded roads.
If you have no choice but to get behind the wheel in wet weather, you should make sure you’re as prepared as possible.
Before setting out
Allow plenty of time for your journey to ensure that both you and your car are ready for the conditions ahead:
- Plan your route. Where possible, try and stick to main roads as they’re less likely to get flooded.
- Check that your windscreen wipers and lights are working properly, your tyres are in good condition, and that you have enough fuel - especially as the bad conditions could make your journey longer.
- If needed, remind yourself how to use your air conditioning and heater, so you can demist your car’s interior without getting distracted while driving.
- Ensure your mobile phone is charged in case you break down or get stuck.
On the road
In wet conditions, you need to drive more carefully:
- Reduce your speed, especially if there’s standing water on the road, as you could risk aquaplaning (see below).
- Leave more space than usual between your vehicle and the one in front, as in wet weather stopping distances double to four seconds. Keeping your distance from other vehicles also helps to minimise the spray hitting your windscreen and obscuring your vision.
- Turn on your headlights so other drivers can see you more easily. However, you shouldn’t use your fog lights - road safety organisations warn they can mask your brake lights and dazzle other drivers.
- If you can, avoid splashing pedestrians and cyclists. It’s bad enough that they’re dealing with heavy rain, and you can also get landed with a fine.
If the road is flooded
If the heavy rain is causing water to build up on the roads ahead, then drive with caution. Importantly:
- If a road is flooded, and you can’t tell how deep the water is, then don’t drive on it.
- Never attempt to drive through fast-flowing water.
- Don’t stop in standing water: if you think it’s shallow enough to drive through, first wait for any vehicles coming the other way to pass.
If you think water on the road ahead may be deep, but can’t tell for sure, then the RAC advises drivers to get out of their cars and use a stick, or similar, to try and gauge the depth of puddles or floodwater.
If the water appears to be too deep - or you can’t know for sure - then find an alternative route. As well as potentially damaging your car, many vehicles require only two feet of water to float, according to road safety charity Brake.
If the water is passable, then keep your vehicle in a low gear and engine revs up as you drive through it. Be careful to avoid any submerged objects, like branches, that could damage your car.
Once you’ve driven through the water, and are back onto a flat section of road, then press your brakes gently to test them. This will also help them to dry out.
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Driving through puddles or floodwater can cause aquaplaning or hydroplaning, as its also known. This is when water gets between your tyres and the road surface. The immediate loss of traction can make your car slide – also known as fishtailing – and make your steering feel light. It can be a scary experience and can easily lead to an accident.
If this happens to you, take your foot off the accelerator and don’t brake until you’ve regained control.
To minimise the risks of aquaplaning in wet weather, ensure your tyres are in good condition and drive at a sensible speed.