Heavy rain and high winds present serious safety threats to motorists and road users, so much so that in especially bad weather it's often better to stay off the road. But, if you have to take to the road in adverse conditions, here are our top tips for driving in heavy rain and strong winds.
- Keep both hands on the wheel
Loosening your grip on the steering wheel will leave you less able to counter-steer any movement the car might make as it’s blown about by sudden gusts. With both hands on the wheel, you’re better-prepared to react if the car changes path without warning due to a side wind. Anyone who’s crossed a high bridge over a big river may be familiar with this scary sensation – and fully aware of why maximising control is essential.
- Keep your speed down
The faster you’re driving, the greater the risk of wind changing your direction, so keep your speed down to a safe level where you feel in control. While the legal limit on most motorways is 70mph, it may be better for you to reduce your speed to prevent your car straying into another lane in a sudden gust. This will be especially true if the wind is accompanied by rain, because you’ll have even less grip. Keep an eye out for water that pools on the road. If you see standing water ahead, gently ease off the accelerator and maintain your grip on the wheel. Consider moving into another lane if it's safe to do so, to reduce the chances of aquaplaning.
- Keep your distance
Adding to the above point, keep a safe distance between you and other road users. This includes cars, lorries/vans, motorcyclists and ,cyclists; and even footpath pedestrians, all of whom can be blown off course without warning. For your own safety, if you must pass a van or lorry on the motorway, consider whether it’s worth doing so two lanes away from them rather than in the lane beside them, because there’s a greater risk that they could be blown over in a gust.
- Look out for flying or falling objects
If you’re driving along a residential route in high winds, bins, plant pots and even trees can be lifted and blown into your path. The latter is especially likely if you’re driving along a country route, where fallen trees and blowing branches are a likely threat in strong winds. Also consider that animals may be more distressed in bad weather, and more likely to run out across the road. Driving slower and with even greater attention to your surroundings and the road ahead is vital in reducing the chances of you being hit by something, or worse, you hitting something.
- Avoid bridges
In the most extreme weather, it’s likely that bridges or coastal routes will be closed for safety reasons, because that’s where the worst winds often are. You’d be best to check if a route is open before embarking on it. If you must cross a bridge that’s open, all the above advice should be taken with even more care.
- Hold that door
When opening a car door – whether from the outside or inside – in heavy winds, you must hold the handle and not let go until you’re sure it won’t be blown out of your grasp. Not only is there a risk your door could catch the wind and fling into a car beside it, but you could also be injured. In high winds, your door – a large metal object – acts as a sail and wants to fly.
Take care out there...