With the change in seasons throughout the year and the continued increase of motor vehicle traffic in the UK, it is likely that you will encounter bad weather when driving. In the winter months, a driver is at increased risk of visual impairment, such as heavy rain, snow or hail. The road surface is different due to ice, leaves and surface water. Statistically, a driver is 20% more likely to have an accident when driving in poor weather conditions.
Preparation for bad weather
Bad weather can sneak up on us, but it is safe to say that it is more likely during the winter months. We can definitely expect more rain and wind. These alone can make driving hazardous with reduced visibility and increased risk of losing control of the car. There are a few simple steps that car owners can take as winter approaches to reduce the risk. One very low-cost tip is to make sure that the windscreen wipers are fit for purpose – this will be invaluable when an unexpected downpour hits when on a long motorway journey. Also, check that the tyre tread is within legal thresholds – this is especially important when expecting higher levels of surface water on the roads. A tyre with higher tread depth will have greater grip on the road and be much safer.
The first thing that you should ask yourself when setting out on a journey when the weather is bad is “do I really have to make this trip?”. Of course, the safest answer is no – if you don’t go out then there is no danger. If the answer is yes, then make sure both the driver and vehicle are ready for the trip. If your car is covered with snow or ice, it is very tempting to just clear enough to be able to see out of the driver’s window. However, please take the time to remove the visual obstructions from all windows and lights. Any restriction could cause a hazard to be missed, including other vehicles not seeing you due to your headlights being blurred.
If the trip is important and cannot be delayed until weather conditions improve, try to schedule the majority of the driving to be during daylight hours. This will improve visibility and reduce risk. Even when heading out in the daylight, it is very important to check the headlights before starting out. If visibility is slightly reduced, it is highly advisable to turn on your headlights, even during the daytime. Dense fog will need fog lights to be turned on at short notice, so make sure you know how to turn these on before you start the car!
When making that unavoidable journey in bad weather, adjust your driving style to suit the conditions. This can just mean going a little slower than usual to give you a fraction longer to react if something should happen on the road ahead. It is also a good idea to be weary should there be standing water (aka a big puddle) ahead – if needs be stop to assess the depth of the puddle before entering. You don’t want to get halfway through to find out that the puddle is too deep for the car only for the engine to cut out!