Tips for driving safely in heavy rain

Car on a road in wind and rain

We have some useful advice which could help prevent collisions on the road during heavy rainfall and flooding.

Driving in wet conditions can be hazardous, but you have a better chance of staying safe if you prepare for wet weather.

Even drivers with local knowledge can be caught out during heavy downpours, as even the most modern road surface is still susceptible to standing water. This creates a potential aquaplaning hazard as well as significantly reducing visibility.

Take it easy through standing water and if the steering does become unresponsive due to the rain, ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually.

Driving during heavy rain

  • Use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet). You may also use front or rear fog lights but you MUST switch them off when visibility improves.

  • Give yourself the best chance of being able to see clearly in wet weather by renewing windscreen wipers if worn or damaged

  • Double the distance you leave between your car and the car in front of you, as stopping distances are increased by wet roads.

  • If steering becomes unresponsive due to the rain, ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually.

Driving on flooded roads and standing water

  • Don't try driving through fast-moving water, such as at a flooded bridge approach – your car could easily be swept away.

  • Watch out for standing water, trying to avoid it if you can, and adjust your speed to the conditions.

  • Driving fast through standing water is dangerous; tyres lose contact with the road and you lose steering control in what's known as 'aquaplaning'. If you do experience aquaplaning, hold the steering wheel lightly and lift off the throttle until the tyres regain grip.

  • Driving fast through standing water is inconsiderate. Driving through water at speeds above a slow crawl can result in water being thrown onto pavements, soaking pedestrians or cyclists. You could face a hefty fine and between three and nine penalty points if the police believe you were driving without reasonable consideration for other road users.

  • Driving fast through standing water can cause expensive damage. The air intake on many cars is low down at the front of the engine bay and it only takes a small quantity of water sucked into the engine to cause serious damage. All engines are affected but turbo-charged and diesel engines are most vulnerable.

  • As you drive slowly through standing water, use a low gear so the engine rev's are higher; water in the exhaust could otherwise damage the catalytic convertor.

If you break down in heavy rain don't prop the bonnet open while you wait for the patrol to arrive. The engine will be more difficult to start again if the electrics are all rain-soaked.

Driving during high winds

Video - tips for drivers during periods of heavy rain

Transcript for the 'driving in the rain' video (new window, PDF 61KB)

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Car on a road in wind and rain

 

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