insurance & you

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Top tips for driving in heavy rain

During the darker months, opening the curtains and finding heavy rain can make the warmth and comfort of our homes seem all the more alluring. For many, car journeys are a necessity, and even highly experienced drivers may find torrential downpours somewhat intimidating at times. By heeding some simple tips, though, any fears can be allayed:


Heavy rain

1.    Preparation - Basic car maintenance contributes to the safety of you and those around you when the skies open. From ensuring none of your car’s lights are damaged or dirty, to regularly cleaning windscreen wipers with a cloth and replacing them when they begin to leave marks; it all matters. Spray is often a challenge when driving behind or alongside large vehicles, so it’s important that your windscreen wipers, which take the brunt, are correctly fitted and in good condition.


2.    Car care - If you don’t have use of a garage, car port or another kind of covered parking, try to keep your car’s ‘scuttle drains’ clean by removing any leaves, twigs and other deposits, which may have collected outside, along the bottom of the windscreen. If concerned about water ingress, enlist the help of a garage. Owners of convertibles may need to invest in waterproof car covers to reduce the chances of any leaks developing.


3.    Lights - Many cars manufactured in the last few years are fitted with permanently lit, and often fancy-looking ‘daytime running lights’ at the front; but remember, this doesn’t mean your tail lights will be lit. Switching your headlights on manually is sensible in wet weather, full beam should be used no differently to normal, and fog lights should be reserved for when impaired visibility makes it difficult to see the rear, or brake lights, of vehicles in front. Wet roads result in additional reflections, glare, colours, lights and shapes, which can distort a driver’s view, requiring extra alertness.


4.    Exercise judgement - If a deluge is so heavy that visibility becomes dangerously poor, it’s wise to stop as soon as it’s possible to do so safely. When a car’s windows mist up, air conditioning usually proves effective, otherwise try narrowly opening a window for a short duration. If visibility remains dangerous, stop when safe to do so, and clean your windows with a cloth.


5.    Calm and gentle - Understandably, motorists can become frustrated in wet conditions, partly due to an increased number of vehicles on the road, which can slow down journeys. Increasing your speed in order to get to your destination more quickly, however, can prove dangerous in rainy weather, as stopping distances at least double on wet surfaces. Reduced traction makes jerky movements inadvisable, the key being to brake, steer, accelerate and corner gently.


6.    Standing water - Puddles and larger pools can accumulate quite quickly following spells of heavy rain. Experienced drivers understand the possible perils, even shallow water can hide hidden obstacles such as rocks, displaced drain covers, and potholes capable of causing damage. To reduce the risk of damaging your car in any way, from the wheels to the engine, steer smoothly around standing water where possible, especially if you’re unable to judge its depth. The Highway Code makes provision for police notices to be issued to any motorists appearing to splash a pedestrian, or cyclist, intentionally.


7.    Route planning and anticipation - Flood water frequently occurs in low-lying areas, or other known dips, so proceed with caution during and after heavy rain; especially in rural or generally unfamiliar places. Use your observational skills to try to determine how deep a pocket of standing water is. If the level is likely to exceed the bottom of your car’s doors, or covers at least a third of the height of one of the wheels, it’s advisable to find an alternative route if possible.


8.    Aquaplaning - This is the name given to the rather unnerving situation, where the wheels of a car lose contact with the road; leaving the vehicle effectively surfing over a stretch of water. If this occurs, particularly at faster speeds, resist the temptation to brake firmly. Instead, grip the steering wheel firmly and focus on steering a course that is nice and straight, easing off the accelerator so that your car slows down naturally, gradually regaining contact with the road.


With a little preparation, an adjustment in your driving style and a spirit of extra vigilance, driving in heavy rain needn’t be overly daunting.

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