Driving Safely in Wet Weather Conditions
Each year, thousands of car accidents occur on wet roads and in poor driving conditions in the rain, some of which result in fatalities. As we enter the darker, wetter seasons, the chances of such an accident occurring rise significantly.
John James (RTA Solicitor at Michael Lewin Solicitors) takes a look at how we can all drive more safely in such conditions and minimise the risk of being involved in an accident.
Why is Driving in the Wet So Dangerous?
As the road gets wet, oil and grime that has settled into the road mixes with the excess water and rises to the surface, making an already slippery road even more so as your vehicle finds it more difficult to get traction. Braking and steering becomes less responsive, so it is important you take a few key steps to negate the increased risk of an accident.
Is Your Car Ready?
Keep your car well maintained; ensure that your tyres are at the right pressure and meet the legal limit of tread. Ensure that your windscreen wipers are in good working order and that your lights work.
The very best thing you can do to prevent an accident is reduce your speed. When you drive at a slower speed, more of the tyres tread makes contact with the road, giving you better traction.
Try to drive at a steady pace, avoid accelerating quickly or braking suddenly, and avoid jerky movements when braking, accelerating, or turning.
Give yourself a bit of extra time to get to your destination, so you can avoid any unnecessary rushing!
Keep a Safe Distance from the Car in Front of You
It can take up to three times longer to stop on a wet road than it does a dry one, even if you use tyres designed for wet conditions and are in perfect condition. Remember:
- Be a defensive driver – keep at least two seconds’ distance between you and the car in front of you.
- Be alert – look out for brake lights on the road ahead of you
- Be seen – turn on your headlights so that others can easily see you.
What to Do if You Lose Control of Your Car
If your car goes into a skid on the wet road, do not apply your brakes more heavily – this can increase your skid. Apply brakes in a firm and steady manner, and do not panic!
Steer in the direction of the skid – this will help to straighten up your vehicle.
Many modern cars have anti-lock brakes. If your car has them, in the event of a skid you should apply slightly more pressure, hold the brakes firmly and steadily and do not pump them (i.e. repeatedly press and release the brake pedal).
If there is standing water on the road, there is a high risk that your vehicle may aquaplane. Aquaplaning occurs when your tyres glide across the surface of the water on the road, with no grip on the road surface itself. If you start to aquaplane:
- Take your foot off the accelerator, but don’t use your brakes
- Hold the steering wheel steady and straight
- Pushing down on your clutch will help the car slow on its own
- Try and follow the tyre path of a vehicle in front of yours – this will expose the road surface and increase the chance of recovering your grip on the road.
The main keys to driving in wet weather are probably obvious to most, but the absolute priority is to maintain an increased level of alertness, especially at night. Avoid the usual distractions such as eating, drinking, fiddling with the radio or passing items to children in the back seat – anything where you need to take one or both hands off the wheel. Keep to a bare minimum any activities that take your focus away from the road!
As the nights get longer and the roads get wetter, make sure you follow these simple tips and stay safer out there!