All Weather Driving
It’s important to stay informed about driving in different weather conditions, read the sections below for detailed information about driving in different weather conditions.
- Driving in the Sun
A lovely sunny day, perfect driving conditions. Don’t be deceived!
A few tips:
- Ensure your windows are clean, use your washers regularly to wash off any mud & dust build up, including the inside of your windscreen as looking through a film of dust does not help visibility at all!
- Be aware that using sunglasses, while helping to reduce the glare of the sun, will make the shaded areas of the road darker and therefore it will be more difficult to see potential hazards.
- Driving from bright sun into shade or the reverse, leaves moments of bad visiblity as your eyes adjust to the change in light levels. The brighter the sun the more dramatic these moments of reduced visibility will be.
- Eye blinking more than usual, whilst driving through the light level changes or into the sun, will help keep you from being blinded.
- Using your dipped headlights will help you to see into the shaded area, & will allow oncoming traffic / people to see you more easily.
- Driving out of the sun (rise or set) will make your vehicle more difficult to be seen by oncoming traffic, using your dipped headlights will help.
- Be aware of microclimates in the winter.
- Driving in Wet Weather or Floods
Summer or winter, heavy or light rain can cause all sorts of different hazards so read on!
- All rain will affect the visibility so use your main beam or dipped headlights as appropriate.
- Only drive at a speed that you can stop in the space you can see to be clear.
- Ensure that your lights & wipers are working correctly so that you can see & other vehicles can see you.
- You will need a larger safety gap (4 seconds minimum) so that you can brake more gently on a slippery road surface with wet brakes.
- Take note of road surfaces, a shiny worn out smooth surface will have a lot less grip than a rough one & this will affect your vehicle handling and braking in the rain. This is far more difficult to see at night so slow down to compensate for the unknown road surface.
- During a dry spell the road will acuminate oil & rubber from vehicle engines and tyres. When it starts to rain this will create a very slippery surface for braking & steering so be especially careful of junctions & roundabouts.
- The road drainage system may not be able to cope with sudden heavy rain thus causing surface water & floods. The shallowest part will always be towards the center of the road. Where ever possible try to drive around the puddle giving way to oncoming traffic where necessary.
- If you need to drive through the puddle, try to go through the shallowest part & reduce your speed significantly. You will feel the water change the balance of the car, this is due to the water slowing the tyres going through the water, the ones on the dryer part of the road will be at a normal speed, hence the pull on the steering as you enter & exit the puddle.
- When the roads are flooded, where possible choose an alternative route.
- When the road is flooded, gauge the depth of water. You can do this by looking at where the water is against oncoming vehicles, where the depth is against the curb/hedge/grass. Get out and look if you are in any doubt.
- Drive through the flood very slowly so not to cause a bow wave that could damp the electrics and stop the engine.
- If water goes down the exhaust pipe into the engine you will cause terminal damage to your engine. If you decide to drive through use 1st gear, keep the engine revs up (gas) & slip the clutch to the bite to keep the speed down so that you do not cause the bow wave.
- If you have oncoming traffic on a narrow road, let them through the flood first so that you are not affected by their bow wave.
- Driving at speed through water can cause aqua-planning, this is where you are driving on top of the water! Your steering control will be lost & will feel incredibly light. Come off the accelerator & let your engine braking slow you down. Do not brake. As you slow down, the car will come back down to the road.
- Driving at Night
The main problem is vision. Almost 90% of a driver’s reaction depends on it.
With daybreak, dusk & night driving we are driving with reduced levels of sunlight, depth perception and peripheral vision. Therefore seriously reducing our reaction times. Of course this is usually the time when the driver is likely to be tired, which is only going to make reaction times longer.
- Don’t out drive the beam of your lights, reduce your speed so that you can always stop within your visibility.
- Use your dipped headlights as soon as full daylight is reduced & ensure that your lights are working correctly. At daybreak & dusk your lights will not help you see, but will help other people see you, which will keep you safer.
- Speed and distance is far harder to gauge at night as you cannot relate the other vehicle to its surroundings. So keep larger safety gaps when following taffic and emerging at junctions.
- Always dip your lights when following or have oncoming traffic. When you have a following vehicle that wants to overtake give them more visibility by using your main beam lights where possible, dipping your lights when the overtaking vehicle is alongside you.
- To avoid oncoming traffic glare look towards the left verge/curb and beyond the vehicle into the darkness.
- Look ahead for signs of oncoming traffic, over hedges, brows and hills, lights coming out of the bends and dip your lights so you don’t dazzle oncoming traffic.
- Use your anti-dazzle option on your centre mirror, tired eyes will be more sensitive to lights. Don’t ignore eye fatigue, take a break, have a catnap or go for a walk (ladies, don’t put yourself at risk!).
- Keep your windows clean, not forgetting the inside of your windscreen, this will help eliminate glare.
- Vulnerable road users (bikes, pedestrians etc…) are far harder to see at night, especially if the weather conditions are bad. In town in rain with all the reflected lights, car lights, shop lights it is extremely difficult to find bike lights. Therefore take extra time over the mirror checks so that you are able to see them.
- Driving in the Snow
Because we do not have regular snow in the UK, we don’t always get the practice to drive in it. Hence the accidents caused by driving inappropriately. Do not worry about driving too slowly, in this weather condition, this is far safer than driving too quickly.
- Snow can be incredibly dirty so ensure your windscreen is kept clean before & during your journey. Scrape off the worst of the snow and then use tepid/cold water to wash the screen. Dry the windscreen using the wipers to ensure the water does not freeze.
- Ensure your headlights are working correctly and are clean so that you get the full benefit of them.
- Use your dipped headlights so that the beam aims under the snow rather than bouncing off it. Fog lights could be used when visibility reaches to 100 metres or less. This is about 25 car lengths, of course when the visibility improves you must turn off your lights to ensure you are not dazzling other road users & do not obscure the brake lights.
- Junctions can be hazardous in the snow. You may want to wind your window down & listen out for vehicles that you may not be able to see. You could also sound your horn to warn other traffic of your presence.
- Very thick falling snow can be disorientating. Perception of time changes due to the slower speeds & not being able to see the usual landmarks around you. Allow a lot more time for your journey.
- Don’t make any sudden movements. Harsh steering, braking and acceleration will all cause loss of grip to the road & may result in a crash.
- Acceleration should be gradual and not heavy.
- Do not hang onto the lights of the car in front. Leave more of a distance between your car and the car ahead, 10 second safety gap minimum for time to react to the road & traffic in front.
- Drive as slowly as you can in as high a gear as possible. You are aiming to keep the wheels going round as slowly as possible so that they have maximum grip.
- It is essential that you anticipate braking very early and then use engine braking alternately with the brake pedal. Braking must be very gradual to stop the wheels locking.
- If the wheels lock-up, your vehicle will slide and go out of control. In the event of your wheels locking and the car sliding, release the brake pedal to recover traction, then brake again, gradually, all the while using the engine.
- Whilst driving downhill in the lowest gear for maximum engine braking, you can also use the technique of forcing your wheels round by using the accelerator with your right foot. But make them go round very slowly by braking with your left foot. This is not simple however (as your left foot is more used to using the clutch than brakes) so practice downhill in dry weather first. Do not try it for the first time in snow.
- To avoid the risk of sliding when pulling away on snow, it is essential to accelerate very gradually. If the wheels slide, engage the next gear up so as to decrease the force applied to the wheels (make them go round more slowly) and be able to pull away cleanly.
- Junctions/Corners/Bends. Slow down in plenty of time in a straight line before steering. Streer round the corner with a constant, flowing movement, to avoid the tyre sliding and losing grip & once in the bend, maintain a slow and regular speed, to avoid skidding.
- Driving in Fog
Fog is one of the UK most hazardous driving conditions. The main problem is vision; fog can occur & clear again suddenly.
As a driver you must be able to stop the car in the space you can see to be clear. Therefore the closer the ‘wall’ of fog is the slower you go, 12m (40ft) visibilty would be less than 20mph.
- Fog can be incredibly dirty, so ensure your windscreen is kept clean before & during your journey.
- Ensure your headlights & fog lights are working correctly & are clean so you get the full benefit of them.
- Use your dipped headlights so that the bean aims under the ’wall’ of fog rather than bouncing off it. Fog lights are to be used when visibility reduces to 100 metres or less. This is about 25 car lengths. Of course when visibility improves you must turn your fog lights off so that you do not dazzle other road users & do not obscure the brake lights.
- Do not hang onto the lights of the car in front, allow a bigger safety gap for breaking & reacting to hazards ahead. The car in front may break very harshly if driving too fast for the visibility.
- Junctions can be hazardous in fog. You may want wind your window down & listen out for vehicles that you may not be to see. You could also sound your horn to warn other traffic of your presence.
- Very thick fog can be disorientating. Perception of time changes due to the slower speeds and not being able to see the usual landmarks and signs around you. Please allow a lot more time for your journey.
- Watch for the fog to be patchy if visibility improves slightly expect it to reduce again as the fog thickens. This can happen surprisingly quickly & the faster you are going the less time you will have to react to danger.
- Be aware of other vehicles/people/animals on the road which do not have or are not using headlights or fog lights, they can be almost invisible.
- If you break down, try & get your vehicle completely off the road. Use your hazard lights along with your fog & side lights.
- It is very tiring to drive in fog so take regular breaks to rest your eyes.
- Be aware that the longer you drive in fog the more accustomed to it you get. The speed can creep up so keep an eye on the speedometer so that you can ensure that your speed is within the braking distance of your visibility.
- Driving in High Winds
This weather condition can take the driver by surprise!
- Sudden gusts of wind can feel like the car is being blown/pushed across the road & you will have to steer to compensate.
- Be aware of when you are driving out of sheltered areas & expect to feel the wind. Higher speeds increase the effects of crosswinds & turbulence of coming out of sheltered areas or overtaking lorries.
- Do not ignore the cross wind sign!
- Take special care around lighter (bikes) or unstable vehicles (lorry’s, caravans) that will be affected by the wind. Give them more clearance, especially when overtaking.
- Driving in Micro Climates
Micro climates are small areas of weather/road conditions that change dramatically from the norm. The danger is not anticipating them in time to reduce your speed.
- In winter when you are driving in frosty conditions with sun, the sun may have melted areas of frost/ice, but where the sun has not reached there may still be icy patches. If the cold snap lasts over a few days, the road condition difference between the frost/ice & sun melted areas will be