Use the following checks and on-road behaviours to ensure that you arrive safely at your destination with the minimum of fuss and stress…
Any good roofer or scaffolder will tell you that most weather forecasts are unreliable beyond 24-36 hours. After all these guys depend on good conditions for their jobs. The accuracy of weather reports actually increases the closer they get to the time in question. If you’re concerned about conditions, be sure to take a look. If conditions are likely to improve, no problem. Consider cancelling the trip if there’s going to be severe storms and flooding. Usually the met office has no problems issuing warnings these day.
Check Your Wipers
Visibility in the wet is essential. Give your wipers a good check before you go – both front and back and remember to replace these when they stop working. It’s easy to forget until it’s a real problem. Remove any leaves or serious dirt deposits on the windows too as the last thing you want is a wipe of muck across your view when you’re going at 70mph on a motorway.
Other Important Car Checks
You’ll also need to keep one eye on your tyres too. Learn how to check your tyres as these are essential for good grip in watery conditions. If the tread is eroded substantially then you’ll lose grip and could even aquaplane – which is when your car is more or less floating on a film of water – on the open road. Be very careful about speed. It’s easier to lose control in these conditions.
And believe it or not water makes a vehicle’s engine do more work. It’s harder for it to cut through the rain in the air and with less grip the engine needs more power. You’re looking at substantially decreasing your miles per gallon when out in the wet. So for long journeys fill up that little bit more.
Can You Wait?
If the weather out there looks especially bad, then you can always ask yourself the question, is it worth waiting? Put off non-essential trips to see friends and family and obviously any kind of outdoor activities will be easy to shelve, rather than brave the weather. Be honest with yourself. Any apprehension behind the wheel is likely to make you jumpy, stiff and anxious. All qualities that could increase your chances of a problem in an already tough situation.
Another good tip with logistics is to make sure you travel during the day. Night driving when the visibility is impeded due to heavy rain on long roads, particularly those out in the country is no joy ride. If you need to get to a hotel, arrive early, take the laptop and work or watch a film – rather than risking it later in the evening or at night.
Braking and Leaving Gaps
You should have a good idea of your braking distances in your car in the dry. However, you’ll need to at least double these in the wet as the slippery surface will decrease the traction of your tyres on the road and water spray can decrease the ability of your brakes to create friction.
The 2 second rule is a good way of judging safe distances between you and other drivers. You may remember your driving instructor telling you that only a fool breaks the 2 second rule way back when you took your test. Watch as a car in front passes a pylon or tree and then count the number of seconds you take to reach it. Now consider that in the wet you might want to double this to 4 seconds to make sure you’re really safe out there on the road.
Let There Be Light
Alongside the windscreen wipers, headlights are another vital aid to visibility. Only in this case lights not only help you develop clarity about the road ahead, but they also alert other drivers out on the road to your presence. One thing that’s worth remembering is that fog lights are strictly for when there’s poor visibility in mist and fog. If you can’t see for any considerable distance in front of you then put on the fog lights.
Ventilation and Demisting
As the outside of your car gets colder the hotter moisture in your breath will collide with the cold surfaces and cause them to fog up and mist. We’d advise you to put on the air conditioning if you have it – or the demisting system – and perhaps even open the window a touch if the fogging becomes problematic. In extreme cases there’s nothing wrong with even pulling over and waiting for the issue to subside.
One Woman Owner Says
Yes driving in the wet is considerably more stressful than going out on a drive on a sunny day. If you’re not long behind the wheel then it may even be worth going out on shorter trips around familiar roads to acclimatise yourself to these conditions. That way you can gain confidence in your abilities and start to develop good habits for the vigilance and double checking that will prevent you from having an accident or any other kind of hairy moments.