driving-in-the-rainSnow, over the last couple of years has caused the biggest problem to the UK winter. As we are discovering this year, it is the rain which is creating chaos, not just on the train lines but on the roads as well. You don’t have to live on a flood plain or right by the sea to experience the majestic force of nature causing flooding – urban flooding can be caused by sewers and drains not being able to cope with the influx of rain water and drain away.

So here at A Pass 4 U, we thought it would be a good time to take a bit of a refresher – and provide you with a little advice regarding driving in rain, which can cause very hazardous conditions. As always good preparation can be helpful and knowledge empowers.

The Highway Code States:

  • In wet weather, stopping distances will be at least double of dry conditions.
  • Keep well back from the vehicle in front. Thus increasing your ability to see and plan ahead.
  • If the steering becomes unresponsive, it probably means that water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road. Ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually.
  • The spray from vehicles will make it difficult to see and be seen.
  • Be aware of the dangers of spilt diesel, this makes a surface very slippery.
  • Take extra care around pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders.

With the amount of rain the UK has been having – a driver might find themselves in a position of driving through patches of road where heavy rain has managed to accumulate. Do not attempt to drive through any water that you are unsure of the depth and definitely not through fast flowing water.

If you do have to drive in water, then remember to go slowly as not to create waves for other vehicles. You can face a fine of £2500 and between three to nine penalty points can be fixed on your licence for not being a considerate driver, not to mention drawing water up into your engine, possibly causing serious damage. Turbo charged and diesel engines are most vulnerable. Test your brakes as soon as possible, after driving through water to ensure they haven’t become flooded and work properly – this will hopefully disperse the water between the calliper and the pad.

Water on the road surface can cause a car to skid, this is called Aqua-planing.This can feel like you are driving on a sheet of ice. Steering can become very light.

Aqua Planing arises because the Tyre tred fills with water, which then takes away the grip. The consequence is that you skid, due to the amount of water that is displaced by your tyres. When you are driving along your tyre needs to be in contact with the road surface so it can hold on. If too much water is between your tyre and the road surface – you will aqua plane.

The instant loss of control as your car aqua planes can be a terrifying experience. The best thing you can do is keep calm and as the car starts to slide, lift your foot of the accelerator, which instantly slows you down. Then, allow the car to hopefully regain traction. As your car slows, its weight should force you back down to the road surface, where your tyres will then connect, giving you back your control of steering. 

Keeping a check on the tred of your tyre is still extremely important, even in dry weather. It is advisable to check them once a month and before any long journey – don’t forget to check the spare!

Alongside the heavy rain sometimes we also have strong winds. Expect sudden gusts in poor weather conditions. The wind can catch under the bottom of your vehicle, causing a car to sway or even flip over. This is why it is important to give space to cyclists – a minimum of two metres is suggested.

Remember to keep both hands on the steering wheel, keep your speed down. The faster you are travelling the easier it is to be blown off course – a sudden gust of wind is likely to send the car adrift.

When driving in adverse weather conditions remember to take a mobile phone with you, if you have one. A blanket kept in the back is also handy and have some warm and dry clothing with you. When you know the weather is going to be especially bad, check out the weather reports before leaving home so that you don’t put yourself in any unnecessary danger and as always in these conditions, only travel when it is necessary.

Floodwater facts

  • The majority of drowning deaths in the UK occur within only 3m of a safe point
  • 2/3 of those who die in flood-related accidents are considered to be good swimmers
  • 32% of flood-related deaths are by drowning in a vehicle
  • After 20 minutes in water at 12C the temperature of the deep muscle of your forearm would drop from 37 ºC to 27ºC,  leading to a 30% reduction in muscle strength.
  • In water 1m deep (waist high), flows of 1m/s become challenging and by 1.8m/s (4mph) everyone will be washed off their feet.
  • If the speed of the flood water doubles the force it exerts on you/your car is quadrupled
  • Just six inches of fast flowing water can knock you off your feet and be enough for you to be unable to regain your footing.
  • Two feet of standing water will float your car
  • Just one foot of flowing water could be enough to move the average family car
  • Just an egg cupful of water in the combustion chamber could be enough to wreck an engine
  • Flood water can be contaminated and carry diseases
  • Culverts are dangerous when flooded – the siphon effect of culverts can drag in pets, children and even fully grown adults


Image source: Colin Campbell / Flickr – Licensed for reuse under Creative Commons 2.0