How to drive safely in wet weather
Driving in wet weather is daunting for motorists. Wet roads can cause accidents and downpours decrease visibility. Here are our top tips for staying safe in adverse conditions.
Driving in heavy rain and flooding can be hazardous, so it’s important to know how to prepare for dangerous driving conditions.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and South Wales Police are offering advice to help motorists get ready for the wet weather.
Can I claim for storm damage to my car?
Knowing if you can claim for damage in the event of a red weather warning, or due to severe weather is a source of confusion for many motorists.
You’ll usually be covered by a comprehensive insurance policy for any damage caused by falling trees or debris.
If you make a claim on your policy for this, it would be considered an ‘at fault’ claim. This doesn’t mean that you’re to blame – it just means that the insurance company can’t reclaim the repair costs from a third-party.
Driving through any amount of water over a few inches should be avoided unless it’s absolutely necessary. Over time, corrosion could cause mechanical failure, or water damage could cause your car’s engine to fail.
From an insurance perspective, you should be covered for this if you have a comprehensive policy, but you could risk losing some of your no-claims bonus.
Compare car insurance quotes
Is my car covered for flood damage?
A comprehensive policy should cover you against storm damage, but make sure you check your policy T&Cs.
If you find that your car has been flooded, there are a few steps you should take to make sure it’s still roadworthy:
Put on protective clothing and gloves before you investigate. Flood water can be contaminated and potentially harmful.
Don’t try and start the engine. Water could still be in the cylinders of the car, which could cause further damage if started.
Arrange for your car to be picked up and fixed by a mechanic.
Check for water in the oil. If you take out the dipstick and there are water droplets, you’ll need to get your oil and filter changed before you get back on the road.
Get a professional to clean and dry out any wet upholstery. That way it eliminates the chances of mildew forming.
To help with any insurance claims you might make, make sure you take photos of your vehicle and have an accurate record of the damage. Make a list of any possessions in the car too, along with receipts for those items.
Your insurer will then consider whether the car will be repaired or written off.
If it can be repaired, the car will be sent to an approved garage.
Driving on wet roads
Peter Rodger, chief examiner at the IAM, says: "A suddenly very wet road surface increases the chances of slipping when braking or steering.
"This is a problem not just for motorists, but cyclists and motorcyclists too."
Driving in wet conditions increases stopping distances and visibility is reduced.
Experts urge drivers to drop their speed and give themselves more time to slow down.
"Watch for floods on bends, if you can't see where you're going to come out of the water, think twice about starting to drive into it," Rodger adds.
Avoid wet leaves
A patch of wet leaves can be as dangerous as hitting standing water.
"Remember that leaves can be slippery, especially when wet, so avoid hard acceleration or braking as it can cause skidding," Rodger says.
"Be aware that there may be a dip, pothole or other road hazard hiding under the leaves covering the road, and hold the wheel firmly if you must drive over them."
Check your windscreen wipers
It's also important to make sure your wiper blades are in good condition.
If they squeak as they wipe, they probably need replacing.
Always make sure they are turned off before starting the ignition. This saves the blades and reduces the risk of a blown motor fuse when the first frost hits.
Torrential rain mixed with strong winds is a dangerous combination, which can be overwhelming when you're driving.
Check prices for new windscreen wipers
Driving through a storm
It's important to keep your speed down and drive with caution. Don't gamble driving down flooded roads and always think twice before crossing a ford.
And if you're using a sat nav, be sensible and try to stick to the main routes where possible.
South Wales Police say "Driving in rain will double your stopping distance, meaning you are at greater risk of collision.
Motorists should ensure that they maintain a safe distance and slow to a safe speed, as there will be a reduction in tyre grip."
Read more: The 5 best sat navs on the market
Watch out when driving through water
If you do decide to drive through shallow water, drive on the highest section of the road using the edge of the kerb as an indicator of the depth of water.
Maintain a slow steady speed and once you're safely through the water, test your brakes as soon as you can.
Driving fast through standing water is dangerous as tyres lose contact with the road and you lose steering control, known as aquaplaning.
It only takes six inches of fast-flowing water to knock you off your feet, and one foot of water to float a car.
South Wales police advise "To prevent skids, motorists should drive slowly and carefully, especially on bends."
They go on to say that "when you need to stop or slow, do not brake hard to prevent locking the wheels.
The heavy rain can also reduce drivers’ visibility, so motorists should be extra alert."
Read more: Mobile phones, driving and the law - FAQ's
Breaking down in wet weather
If you do break down in wet weather it is advised to pull over to a safe visible place and wait for help to arrive.
Don’t prop open the bonnet while waiting for roadside assistance. The engine will be more difficult to start if the electrics are rain-soaked.
Always keep tuned to the weather and traffic reports – in case of road or bridge closures – and heed any local police advice about whether it's safe to travel.
First published on the 14th of December 2016