posted 7 years ago

Rain And Flash Flood Driving Tips

Rejoice - the following tips for rainy days help motorists have safe journeys.

Rejoice - the following tips for rainy days help motorists have safe journeys. Wet weather, after all, is a common hazard that is frequently underestimated by the inexperienced. But first a little background. Rain occurs when warm moist air cools and condenses. In other words, warm air can contain more liquid than cool but this falls to the ground as the temperature drops. The result is that vehicles can struggle for traction, visibility can be reduced to zero, and motorists can find themselves admiring the inside of ditches. This can be a particular issue in some parts of the UK. North West Scotland, for starters, can receive three-metres of rain per-year. North West England, Wales, and the South West also receive more than other parts as they are exposed to the Atlantic. Fortunately, Simon Elstow from the Institute of Advanced Motorists has a few thoughts to help motorists cope:

- “Before you set off, set your heater controls – rain makes the windows mist-up in seconds. You don’t want to be fiddling with controls when you should be concentrating on the road.

- Slow down. In the rain your stopping distance should be at least doubled. Giving yourself more space helps you to avoid spray, especially when following a large vehicle.

- Keep your eyes on the road ahead and plan your driving so that you can brake, accelerate and steer smoothly – harsh manoeuvres will unbalance the car.

- If you have cruise control, avoid using it on wet roads – it may create problems if you start to aquaplane.

- See and be seen. Put your lights on – as a rule of thumb, whenever you need to use your wipers you should also turn your headlights on, and before overtaking put your wipers on their fastest setting.

- Making sure your car is properly maintained will make a difference too. Check your wipers regularly, that your tyres are properly inflated and have enough tread, and that all of your lights work and are clean. By law, you must keep the windscreen washer filled, but remember, to keep your windows clean, you must do the inside as well.”

That brings us to flash-floods which can form surprisingly quickly. Problems occur when rain water consistently falls faster than the ground absorbs it. Causes for this phenomenon include poor drainage due to large areas of tarmac and/or saturated soil. This can cause rivers to break their banks which then race – at alarming speeds – downhill towards the sea. In extreme cases, the water has enough power to demolish buildings and sweep away cars. In these conditions it is best not to drive, of course, but the Institute of Advanced Motorists has more tips for negotiating slightly flooded surfaces:

- “Drive on the highest section of the road and don't set off if a vehicle is approaching you.

- Leave time and space to avoid swamping other cars and pedestrians.

- If you can’t see where you are going to come out of the water, such as when approaching flooding on a bend, think twice about starting to drive into it.

- In deep water never take your foot off the accelerator, as this could allow water to travel up the exhaust pipe.

- Once you're out of the water, dry the brakes before you need them. The best way is to lightly apply the brake as you drive along for a few seconds, after checking nothing is following you too closely.”