Driving in the wet and rain

Pouring rain and wet surfaces can present a host of driving hazards. We look at how to stay safe in wet weather.

Pouring rain and wet surfaces can present a host of driving hazards. We look at how to stay safe in wet weather.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
minute read
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Posted 4 NOVEMBER 2019

Why rain and wet cause accidents

Rain and wet roads make it harder for tyres to grip. Plus, there’s the effect of rain on visibility. As well as the rain itself, spray from other vehicles can make it more difficult to see clearly.

The UK’s climate is getting wetter, with sequences of wet days getting longer and the amount of rain from very wet days increasing significantly.

This presents considerable hazards for drivers: people are 30 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured on the roads in rain than in snow, according to government figures. One factor in this is that people don’t adapt their driving to the conditions when it’s wet.

November, December and January are most likely to be the rainiest months. But to stay safe you need to know how to drive in the wet all year round. Here are a few tips.

Check your windscreen  

A greasy windscreen will make it even more difficult to see in rainy conditions. Make sure it’s clean before you set out, and check that your windscreen wipers are working properly, replacing the blades if necessary.

Check your tyres

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

If you can’t seem to steer your car, slowly take your foot off the accelerator - rather than braking - to slow down and allow your tyres to get a better hold.

To prevent hydroplaning happening in the first place, make sure your tyres are in good shape before you take to the road. If they’re worn, they’ll have less grip.

Switch your headlights on

Visibility may be poor even in daytime, so make sure other drivers can see you. Some people recommend always switching the headlights on if you’re using the windscreen wipers.

Understand stopping distances

Your car’s stopping distance in the rain is longer than when you’re driving in dry weather. Stopping distance is how far the car will travel once you spot a hazard, put on the brakes, and come to a full stop.

If the road is wet, your car will have a longer braking distance. This is how far your car will travel as you’re applying the brakes. Your braking distance could be doubled by a wet road.

If it’s raining, you might not be able to see as well, increasing 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

Highways England says that 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. Braking could take you double the amount of time than it normally would, so stay well back.

Slow down

Remember the effect of rain on braking distance and make sure that you’re driving well within the speed limit. Reducing your speed will also allow your tyres to grip the road better.

Beware of deep puddles

Driving through deep patches of water could cause aquaplaning or cause your car to break down. There could also be hazards you can’t see. If you have to drive through a deep puddle, go very slowly.

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