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Travelling in Dangerous Weather Conditions

Weather conditions, particularly when severe, present challenges for keeping the travel networks open and for those navigating the difficult conditions.

With it’s diverse seasons, the Great British weather presents many challenges and many different factors need to be considered to help keep road users safe.

9/10 weather-related deaths and serious injuries on the roads happen in the rain

Winter weather can cause difficult driving conditions and chaos on our roads, however, rain at any time of the year can be risky. In fact 9/10 weather-related deaths and serious injuries on the roads happen in the rain. High winds, strong sunlight, fog, snow and ice all present certain challenges.

Check the forecast and plan ahead

The most important thing to remember before setting off on any journey is to check the forecast and plan ahead.

Moderate rain can reduce your ability to see and be seen. A good mantra to remember is: “If it’s time for your wipers, it’s time to slow down”. Use dipped headlights if visibility is reduced.

If there are heavy downpours, avoid starting your journey until it clears. If you have to travel, use main roads where you are less likely to be exposed to fallen trees, branches, debris or flooding.

Gusts of wind can move vehicles so grip your steering wheel firmly with both hands. This is particularly important when overtaking. Keep an eye out for gaps between trees, buildings or bridges over a river or railway, as these are places you are more likely to be exposed to side winds. Ensure you maintain enough room on both sides of your vehicle so you can account for being blown sideways.

Give your self more time

Roads will be slippery in wet weather so give yourself more time to react when approaching a hazard. Increase your following gap to at least four seconds from the moving traffic in front. Keep your eyes peeled on the road as spray from other vehicles can suddenly reduce your view and visibility.

Flooded roads

If the road is flooded, it is a good idea to turn round and find another route, or avoid travelling altogether. The volume of water and water levels can increase dramatically during heavy rain and so does the risk of drowning, so do avoid walking or driving through through flood water. Although the water may seem shallow, just 12 inches (30cm) of moving water can float your vehicle, potentially taking it to deeper water.

Avoid walking through floodwater. Even shallow moving water can knock you off your feet. Keep children and pets away from flood water as it contains hidden dangers such as heavy debris, sharp objects, open manhole covers, sewage and chemicals.

Flood water also contains hidden hazards which can damage your vehicle, for example just an egg-cupful of water sucked into your car’s engine can lead to severe damage. Remember to give vulnerable road users, in particular cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians more room than usual. Always keep a safe distance as they are more likely to be blown around by side winds.

Driving in mist and fog

According to the Highway Code, you must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, when you cannot see further than 100 metres. Here are tips for driving in mist and fog:

  • When there is fog, make sure you are familiar with how to use your front and rear fog lights
  • If your car has automatic lights, remember to check the lights are on, as they may not be automatically activated in fog. Do not use the full beam, because the fog reflects the light back, reducing visibility even further
  • Follow the ‘two-second rule’ ensuring sufficient space between you and the car in front
  • If visibility is limited, wind down your windows at junctions and crossroads to allow you to listen for approaching traffic. If you cannot see, stop until it is safe to continue
  • If your car is fitted with air conditioning, use it as this will prevent the windows misting up. Ensure the heater is set to windscreen de-misting and open all the vents
  • If the fog is so severe you are struggling to see other vehicles, switch on your fog lights.

Snow and icy conditions

It is safer to avoid travelling in the snow and ice if you can. Snow ploughs and gritters are unable to treat roads if they are clogged with stationary traffic – another good reason to only make essential journeys in snow and icy conditions.

Avoid steep hills and exposed roads as these present more challenging driving conditions in snow and ice. Before you set off clear your windscreen of snow, frost or condensation. The Highway Code stipulates you must be able to see out of every glass panel in your vehicle. Clear any snow off the roof of the vehicle before you drive away, otherwise you may cause snow to fall on your windscreen hindering your vision. Some useful tips for driving in the snow include:

  • Accelerate gently, using low revs
  • You may need to take off in second gear to avoid skidding
  • You may need 10 times the normal gap between your car and the car in front
  • Try not to brake suddenly as it may lock your wheels and you could skid
  • Be extra cautious at road junctions where road markings are not visible

Helping those injured on the road

If you have been injured as a driver, passenger, motorcyclist, cyclist or pedestrian in the last 3 years, our personal injury team at Oliver & Co Solicitors are here to help you. Call 01244 312306 to see how we can help you claim compensation for your injuries and financial losses.

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