UK is one of the wettest countries in Europe, seeing an average of 156.2 days of rain throughout the year. Based on this fact, you could assume that UK’s drivers should be a lot more experienced when it comes to driving in heavy rain, however this is not the case. Rainfall generally changes from year to year, also every year new drivers enter the roads, often facing rainfall with little or no experience in how to handle it. So before thinking about driving in heavy rain, consider how skilled you are as a driver and whether you will be able to approach any possible danger with as little anxiety as possible.
Think: Stay alert
This is probably the most obvious, yet also most important advice. Driving in heavy rain should not be taken lightly. You might want to enjoy your journey and relax, however, not while driving through a storm – this is when you should be your most vigilant and prepared to take on any sudden hazard. Do not assume that all drivers have the same style of driving in the rain, just because you are slower and more careful does not make you a worse driver. Pick a pace that suits you and still allows you to feel confident and in control, speeding will only exceed past your ability to handle a car safely.
Lights: This is not an option
Turning on your lights in reduced visibility conditions is a legal requirement, it’s as simple as that. Before you set off on a journey during which heavy rainfall is expected, make sure that your car is prepared for it. Give your headlights a quick test, turn on your dipped beams and check that both front and back lights are working properly.
When it does start to rain, turn the headlights on, some instrument indicators may be misleading and show that they are on when that is not the case. Failing to turn them on could have some serious consequences, not being seen in already dangerous conditions may lead to a serious accident and of course to a fine if caught by police while doing so.
Driving style: As different as wet and dry
This essentially comes back to the ‘Think’ section, be aware of the different dangers that arise in wet conditions that you may not have to think about when driving in dry ones. Your speed and distance awareness must be at its highest. It probably comes as a no-brainer, but be extra aware of other drivers around you, give yourself more breaking space when driving behind another vehicle – wet roads cause loss of tyre grip, which slows down breaking significantly.
Depending on how long you have been driving for, you may or may not remember the rule of thumb that you have learned while preparing for your theory test about the breaking distance while driving in heavy rain. Wet surface requires double the time to fully stop after breaking – while dry conditions require two seconds, wet ones will require at least four. To determine how far your are behind the car in front of you try to note a ‘marker point’, such as a lamp post or a road sign, once you see the car in front passing it try to count how long it took you to get to that marker point. If it is less than four seconds, reduce your speed and keep safe distance.
Aquaplaning: You can handle this
You may have heard this term before, it describes a situation where the tyre encounters an exceeding amount of water, which can not be cleared. Water will build up under the tyre and lift the car off the road, at this point you can’t really do much and you shouldn’t. Following the simple steps below should allow for the car to return to the road and for you to regain control of it.
- Try to stay as calm as possible
- Take your foot off the accelerator
- Do not break or make any sudden turns, this will only cause you to skid
- Try to keep your car as straight as possible
- Once back on the road, move at reduced speed