Drivers Fact Sheets
Driving In Extreme Weather
It rains so often in this country that it’s really easy to become complacent about driving on wet slippery surfaces. When the rain first comes down it combines with fuel spilt on the road, soot, dust, and debris from tyres and cars, and the result can be a slick road surface that can lead to the driver slipping and sliding all dangerously all over the road.
The first thing to do in torrential rain is to slow down. It seems obvious, but your tyres will have far less grip than in the dry so do keep your speeds down. Travelling too fast in wet weather can also result in aquaplaning. This happens when a layer of water forms between the road surface and your tyres. Effectively, your tyres aren’t touching the road and you will lose control over your steering and braking.
Increase the distance in between your vehicle and the vehicle in front. You can expect to need to double your stopping distances in heavy rain, even more if it becomes a torrent. If the rain comes down so heavy your windscreen wipers are unable to cope, it is better, if you are able, to pull over to the side, off the road and park whilst you wait for the rain to ease.
Reduce the pressure on the pedals In particular, this concerns the brake pedal. When slowing down, ease off your accelerator and slow down gradually to avoid skidding and losing control. Slamming on the brakes will increase the likelihood of you going into an uncontrollable skid and ending up in an accident.
Remember to turn on your headlights. rain and spray will reduce visibility, and turning on your headlights will also make you more visible to other drivers in gloomy conditions.
When driving in high winds, take extreme care. If you have a choice, stay at home and wait for the winds to subside. If you do have to go out, slow down, keep both hands on the wheel and watch for debris in the roadway, if you experience high speed wind gusts. Driving slower will allow you more time to make an evasive manoevre or stop, if the road ahead is blocked by blowing debris, fallen trees or power lines. Gusty winds can suddenly change the way a car handles and catch drivers by surprise.
On rural roads, drive as though you expect a fallen tree to be around the next corner. Also, be careful not to over react to lighter blowing debris. If the wind is carrying a small object like a cardboard box, it is probably empty and won’t do much damage to a vehicle. Resist the urge to swerve into oncoming traffic or solid objects lining the roadway, just to miss blowing debris. Also, be sure to have both hands on the wheel when coming out from under an underpass as the wind will suddenly hit your vehicle.
Be aware of vehicles around you. High winds are more problematic for drivers of trucks, buses, recreational vehicles, campers, and drivers who are towing trailers.
Reduce your speed and correct your steering, especially when moving from a protected area to an unprotected area, or when meeting large vehicles.
Wind is often accompanied by heavy rain or winter precipitation so stay alert for slippery areas.
Severe Thunderstorms And Lightning
If you are driving a vehicle when a thunder and lightning storm approaches, you should pull over until the storm passes by. The rain accompanying the storm may be dangerous, but lighting flashes can travel horizontally over many miles before striking the ground; therefore, a storm that seems far away could become frighteningly close, sooner than anticipated.
A lightning bolt striking the ground near your vehicle can cause a sudden an unexpected flash, which could result in temporary blindness, so be vigilant. Beware of flooded roads, downed power lines and approach junctions with caution.
Turn on your headlights, slow down and allow extra distance for braking. Do not drive unless necessary. If you can, pull safely onto the shoulder of the road away from any trees that could fall on the vehicle. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rains subside and the storm passes.
If you are in your car, you may be safer than an unenclosed structure, but you should still be careful not to touch any metal objects in your car. Your car is only considered a safe place if you drive a hard-topped vehicle, if you drive a convertible, find someplace else to go.
If you’re driving in dense fog, take particular care as it can be patchy and unpredictable. Driving in fog is pretty safe as long as you use your common sense.
As you approach a foggy patch, start to slow down and check your mirrors. Gently use your foot brake so other drivers can see that there is a reason to start slowing down ahead.
Use dipped headlights and fog lights if your visibility is compromised. Do remember to switch off your fog lights when the foggy spell is over as it is an offence to use fog lights in clear conditions (where visibility is 100+ metres).
Keep a keen eye on your speed. If you can only see 40 feet or less ahead of your car then you need to bring your speed down to 20mph.
Keep your eyes open for other drivers who are not using fog lights or dipped headlights. Drive cautiously and don’t take any chances.
Stay in your vehicle. Since hail falls at fast speeds, even a small piece can hurt you or knock you unconscious. Even with the chance of broken glass from a window, staying in your vehicle is safer than being directly exposed to falling hail.
Turn your headlights on as you drive and slow down. Stop driving altogether if at all possible. A moving vehicle makes the impact of the hail worse. It can break the windows bringing down hail and glass shards on you, doing double damage. Try to stop under an overpass to prevent the hail from hitting the car directly.
If you must drive, do it at a slower pace so the hail does not strike your vehicle with more force than it needs to. Driving in hail is actually not recommended. This is because even small hail is dangerous and a moving vehicle will cause it to do more damage than to a stationary object. If at all possible,
Allow extra distance for braking and approach intersections with caution. After the storm, thoroughly evaluate your vehicle for damage.
Flash floods can happen so quickly and are so dangerous because they catch drivers unawares, inside their warm, dry and seemingly safe vehicle.
Whatever you do don’t take risks, turn round and detour if you are uncertain. Don’t try to drive over a flooded road, if at all possible, turn back and find another way, even if you have a 4×4.
Never underestimate the power of water and remember that 2 feet of water, moving quickly, is enough to float a car. Slow moving water is capable of sweeping a car off a road or bridge. If you are in your car and water begins to rise rapidly around you, abandon the vehicle immediately.
If you have to drive through flash flooding, move slowly in first gear, keeping the engine speed high to prevent it stalling and to keep water from backing up the exhaust.
When driving, know the depth of water in a dip before crossing. Be aware that the road bed may not be intact under the water. If the vehicle stalls, abandon it immediately; seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants and sweep them away.
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