Skip to content

Advice for driving in windy conditions

Whether it’s a sudden gust of wind or a full-blown storm, driving in windy conditions can be hazardous and scary – especially if you’re not that confident behind the wheel.

Here’s our advice on driving in high winds to help you stay safe on the roads.

Whether it’s a sudden gust of wind or a full-blown storm, driving in windy conditions can be hazardous and scary – especially if you’re not that confident behind the wheel.

Here’s our advice on driving in high winds to help you stay safe on the roads.

Written by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
Last Updated
2 AUGUST 2023
6 min read
Share article

Driving in windy conditions: top tips

Here in the UK, we get our fair share of wind and storms. Driving in windy conditions can be particularly nerve-racking, especially if you’re an inexperienced motorist.

If you’re heading out on a blustery day, it’s worth knowing what requires extra care when driving in windy conditions. Here are our top 10 tips for improving your confidence and safety on the roads.

1. Pay attention to weather reports

The Met Office – the UK’s official weather service – issues warnings when bad weather, like high winds and storms, is expected. The warnings are colour-coded depending on their likely severity:

  • Yellow usually means there’s likely to be minimal disruption and you can go about your daily routine.
  • Amber means there’s a greater likelihood of travel delays and road closures, power outages and risk to life as well as property.
  • Red means dangerous weather is expected, and substantial disruption is very likely. It’s advisable to stay at home and avoid travelling altogether if possible.

Make sure you listen out for weather warnings and local traffic reports. At the very least, it may mean you’ll need to plan another route or postpone your travel plans.

You can check out the latest weather reports and traffic alerts on the Met Office and GOV.UK websites.

2. Charge your mobile phone

Before you set off, make sure your mobile is fully charged. It’s also a good idea to get an in-car charger. If conditions get so bad that you have to pull over, you’ll be able to phone a friend or relative to let them know where you are.

If you have breakdown cover, make sure the emergency number is stored in your phone, should you need it.

3. Drive slowly

A strong gale could easily throw you off balance while you’re driving in windy conditions. What’s more, high winds can seriously affect your car’s handling and braking. Driving slower could help you deal with sudden gusts and maintain better control of the vehicle.

If you’re driving on the motorway in windy conditions, you should be driving much slower than the usual speed limit. That’s because the faster you drive, the more your steering ability could be affected by high winds.

4. Get a grip

Strong winds can swirl around in all directions, buffeting your car. Make sure you keep both hands on the steering wheel and hold it securely – but not tightly – to keep you on course.

5. Watch out for exposed areas

Bridges, open stretches of road and gaps between hilly areas act as funnels for the wind. Be extra careful in these areas, as strong crosswinds could knock you off course.

6. Be extra careful when overtaking

High-sided vehicles like vans, lorries and caravans can be very dangerous in windy weather, as they’re more prone to buffeting and swaying. Cars might feel more secure, but be particularly careful when overtaking large, wide vehicles.

It’s difficult to predict how cars may respond – a sudden gust of wind could hit you as you pass them, so calculate your manoeuvre and only overtake when it’s safe to do so.

7. Keep your distance

Keep an extra distance between you and the vehicle in front. It gives you more time to slow down or brake if they’re suddenly blown off course.

If it’s exceptionally windy you should be extra careful when overtaking another vehicle as one of you could be blown towards the path of the other.

8. Give cyclists and motorcyclists a wide berth

Allow plenty of room when passing bicycles or motorbikes – they’re far more vulnerable to gusts of wind and less stable than a four-wheeled vehicle.

9. Watch out for debris on the road

Twigs and branches in the road could mean there’s a fallen tree or large branch ahead and driving over debris could also damage your car. If the road is blocked and poses an immediate danger to other road users, you should call the emergency services to let them know.

Stick to main routes, where possible, as these are less likely to be obstructed by fallen branches and debris.

10. Park safely

Avoid parking near anything that could be blown over in high winds – especially overhanging trees. Branches and debris could fall and damage the roof and bonnet of your car.

Strong winds can cause a parked car to shudder, so make sure you fully apply the handbrake before you get out. If you drive a manual car, it’s better to leave it in gear – especially if you’re parked on a slope.

Be careful how you open the door of your parked car as the wind could cause the door to fly open suddenly. It might hit the side of another vehicle or open into the path of an oncoming cyclist, or even another car.

Did you know?

One of the worst UK storms in living history was the ‘Great Storm of 1987’. Although not officially defined as a hurricane, the wind speeds were certainly hurricane force, with gusts reaching up to 100mph. The devastating storm claimed 18 lives, blew down 15 million trees and caused over £1 billion worth of damage to southern England.

Where is your vehicle most affected by side winds?

Your vehicle is most likely to be affected by side winds on open and exposed roads, particularly bridges and viaducts, or when passing gaps between buildings.

Side winds could also be a problem when passing large high-sided vehicles like lorries and buses. Watch out for these types of vehicles causing crosswinds too, which could suddenly blow you off course. Try to give yourself plenty of room on either side of your vehicle to allow for it being blown sideways.

Which vehicles are most likely to be affected by side wind?

Cyclists and motorcyclists are among the road users most likely to become unstable in strong side winds, due to their lightweight vehicles.

Drivers of high-sided vehicles, along with those towing trailers, caravans or horseboxes, could also be particularly vulnerable.

Which vehicles are less likely to be affected by side wind?

Cars tend to be less affected by side winds because of their relatively low centre of gravity. That said, anyone can be caught off guard by side gusts, so take it steady if it looks like the wind is starting to swirl.

Does my car insurance cover damage caused by wind?

If you have a comprehensive policy, you should be covered for damage caused by wind or storms – for example, if high winds or lightning cause a branch or tree to fall on your car.

Third-party, fire and theft won’t cover damage to your car. If you want protection from the elements, you’ll need to take out comprehensive car insurance instead.

Frequently asked questions

What wind speed is dangerous for driving?

What wind speed is dangerous for driving?

Wind speeds of over 30 mph could be problematic for road users, especially drivers of larger, high-sided vehicles. However, a yellow weather warning issued by the Met Office could be anything over 40 mph winds.

Put simply – no matter what the forecast – if you don’t feel confident driving on a blustery day, then it’s too windy to drive.

What types of car are more dangerous in windy weather?

Modern 4x4s have high ground clearance, which means they could be more susceptible to crosswinds and buffeting when driving in windy conditions. Although they offer greater traction in snowy conditions, they’re not great in the wind.

Lightweight, high-sided vehicles can also be affected by strong winds.

Is it dangerous to tow in windy conditions?

Towing a trailer, caravan or boat is more hazardous on windy days. This is because the tow bar is far more vulnerable to jack-knifing and swaying when caught by a crosswind. 

If you’re planning to tow, and high winds are forecast, choose a more sheltered route or postpone your journey for another day.

Looking for a car insurance quote?

Compare car insurance quotes with us today and see if you could start saving.

Get a quote

Rory Reid - car and technology expert

Rory Reid is a car and technology expert. He serves as the main presenter on Auto Trader’s YouTube channel and was previously a host on BBC Top Gear and its sister show Extra Gear. He is also a presenter on Fifth Gear. Previously, he hosted Sky TV’s Gadget Geeks, CNET’s Car Tech channel, BBC Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition and on the YouTube channel Fast, Furious & Funny.

Learn more about Rory

Compare car insurance Get a quote