Wet and wintry weather driving advice

In difficult conditions, you need to take extra care on the roads. We've compiled advice from our driver training experts to help keep you safe in wet and wintry weather.

Wet weather driving

Wet weather driving

In wet weather, stopping distances will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads, because your tyres have less grip on the road.

Always drive slowly and with extra care, and if conditions are particularly bad, only set off if your journey is essential.

When driving in heavy rain:

  • Keep well back from the vehicle in front. This will increase your ability to see and plan ahead. Leave at least double the usual distance between your vehicle and the one in front.
  • If your 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 rain and spray from vehicles may make it difficult to see and be seen. If your windscreen wipers are worn or damaged, replace them as soon as possible.
  • If you do break down in heavy rain, don't prop the bonnet open while you wait for help. The engine will be more difficult to start again if the electrics are soaked.

When driving through standing water:

  • Drive slowly and use a low gear so the engine revs are higher. Otherwise, water in the air intake or exhaust could cause serious damage.
  • Only drive through water if you know that is isn't too deep. Never drive through fast-moving water - your car could easily be swept away. Two feet of flowing water can sweep away most vehicles.
  • Pass through flooded sections one car at a time, and don't drive through water against approaching vehicles.
  • If you lose control, hold the steering wheel lightly and lift off the throttle until your tyres regain grip.
  • After driving through a flooded section of road, test your brakes by touching the pedal very slightly.

Winter driving

When driving in wintry conditions, motorists should take extra care and ensure they keep their vehicle well maintained.

If the roads are snowy or icy, then the first thing you need to consider is whether your journey really is necessary. And if it isn't essential, then don't go - simple as that.

If you are taking to the roads when ice and snow are likely, then begin by ensuring your car is up to the job and check:

  • Your windscreen - make sure it is clear of snow or ice before you go anywhere and remember to clear the wiper blades.
  • Your tyres - make sure both pressure and tread are OK. And remember, the more tread there is on a tyre, the more grip it has.
  • Screenwash bottle - you need some proper de-icer fluid in the bottle, and the bottle should be full.
  • You have a clean, dry cloth in the car - if your screenwashers freeze up you may have to pull over to a safe parking place to rub the windscreen clear.
  • Your lights - are they clean, and do they all work? And remember that however fashionable fog lights are, it is an offence to use them unless visibility is less than 100 metres; it is also dangerous as inappropriately-used front or rear fog lights can badly dazzle other drivers.
  • You know where you are going! If you are setting off on an unfamiliar journey, work out your route in advance. Use satellite navigation if available or carry a map.
  • You know the condition of the roads you will be travelling on by looking at the live weather cameras and gritting routes. Remember these will act as a guide and depending on the weather, conditions may quickly change.
  • Your car's fuel level. Your planned route may be blocked by snow or by an accident, or you may get lost as roads take on an unfamiliar appearance - either way, you may have to travel a lot further than you expected.

An ice scraper and de-icer should be carried for day-to-day use, whilst other items might include a torch, warm clothes or a blanket, boots, first aid kit, shovel, battery, jump lead, tow rope. Food and a warm drink should be considered on longer journeys.

Clear your windows and your car 
Many road users have been concerned by rumours that they could be fined for driving with snow on their roofs. There is no specific legislation on driving with snow on the roof of a vehicle. However if it slips over the windscreen, or flies into the path of another car, it could leave the driver open to being penalised for driving without due care and attention or careless or inconsiderate driving. Any snow left on vehicle bodywork, such as the bonnet or roof, could slide onto lights or windows causing dangerous obstruction to vision of the driver or signals to other road users. Snow could also slide from a moving vehicle and onto a footpath or roadway possibly causing danger or injury to other road users or pedestrians.

Better late than never
Once under way, remember the golden rule of safe driving: it doesn't matter if you are late! On treacherous roads, it is literally a case of better late than never.

Always drive with extreme care even if roads have been gritted - you never know what lies round the next corner. The same applies to the distance you drive behind another vehicle - drive as if you were on an untreated road, and leave a generous space.

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