Driving in the wet and rain

Pouring rain and wet roads can present a whole host of driving hazards. Here’s how to stay safe in wet weather.

Pouring rain and wet roads can present a whole host of driving hazards. Here’s how to stay safe in wet weather.

Julie Daniels
Insurance expert
4
minute read
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Last Updated 5 SEPTEMBER 2022

Why rain and wet cause accidents

Nine out of ten serious injuries on the road happen during wet weather, according to the Met Office. There are a few reasons you’re more likely to have an accident in the rain. As well as making it hard to see, rain and wet roads make it more difficult for tyres to grip. You also have spray from other vehicles to contend with.

Climate change means that the UK is getting wetter – the years 2011-2020 were 9% wetter than 1961-1990 – this poses a serious risk to drivers. According to government figures, people are 30 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured on the roads in rain than in snow. That’s because drivers don’t adapt their driving to the conditions when it’s wet.

And British weather is nothing if not unpredictable – in June 2021, South East England experienced double the average rainfall. To stay safe on the roads, you need to know how to drive in wet weather all year round. Here are our tips:

Check your windscreen  

A greasy windscreen makes it harder to see in rainy conditions. Make sure yours is clean before you set out. You should also check that your windscreen wipers are working properly and replace the blades or screenwash if you need to.

Check your tyres

Very wet weather can cause something called ‘hydroplaning’ or ‘aquaplaning’. This is when a layer of water builds between your tyres and the road and you lose control of the car.

If you’re driving in the rain and find you can’t steer, slowly take your foot off the accelerator to slow down, instead of braking. That way your tyres can get a better hold.

You could prevent hydroplaning by making sure your tyres are in good shape before you take to the road. Worn tyres have less grip.

Turn on your headlights

When it’s wet, visibility may be poor (even in daytime) so turn on your lights to make sure other drivers can see you. Some people recommend always having the headlights on if you’re using the windscreen wipers.

 

Fill up on petrol (or make sure your electric vehicle is fully charged)

Traffic is usually worse in rainy weather so you’ll end up using more fuel. Filling up in advance will save you having to pull over in the pouring rain – or, worse, running out of charge. 

 

Turn on your air conditioning

Having the air con on could prevent your windscreen fogging up in the rain. Car windows mist up when the cold windscreen comes into contact with warm, damp air. Opening the windows is another way to de-mist your screen, although some people swear by cleaning it with shaving foam…

 

Know your stopping distances

Your car’s stopping distance is longer in the rain than in dry weather. The stopping distance is how far the car will travel once you spot a hazard, brake and come to a full stop.

Your car will have a longer braking distance on wet roads. Your braking distance is how far your car travels as you apply the brakes. This can double on a wet road.

When it’s raining, you may have trouble seeing the road ahead. This increases the amount of thinking distance you’ll need. Thinking distance is how far your car travels before you can react to a hazard and slow down.

Keep your distance

Even driving within the speed limit in wet weather can be dangerous if you don’t leave extra space between you and the vehicle in front, according to Highways England.

Braking might take double the usual time, so always stay well back. And if you’re tailing a bus or lorry, leave an even bigger distance or you could be dealing with serious splash and spray.

 

Slow down

Remember rain will increase your braking distance, so make sure you’re well within the speed limit. Reducing your speed will also help your tyres grip the road.

 

Watch out for deep puddles

Driving through deep patches of water could cause aquaplaning or cause your car to break down. There could also be concealed hazards. If you have to drive through a deep puddle, make sure you go very slowly.

See more on how to drive in flooded conditions

If your car breaks down and you get stuck, don’t get out of the car. Stay where you are and call for help – providing your vehicle is parked safely.

Frequently asked questions

Does my car insurance cover flood damage?

With heavy rain and floods becoming increasingly common, it’s worth making sure that your car insurance covers you for flood damage. With fully comprehensive insurance, you should be okay, but if yours is a third-party fire and theft policy, you may want to think about extending it.

Can driving in the rain ruin my car?

Rainwater can wreck your car engine, so never leave the bonnet open if you break down in bad weather. Instead, get back in the car and phone for help.

Is it illegal to splash pedestrians when driving in rain?

Drivers speeding through puddles are annoying, but did you know they’re also breaking the law? If you deliberately splash pedestrians, you’re guilty of careless and inconsiderate driving, an offence under the Road Traffic Act of 1988. You could be fined up to £5,000.

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