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Story: COLIN DAWSON

How to stay safe during extreme weather driving
Allow time and space on flooded sections to ensure you don’t swamp other cars or pedestrians

BRITAIN’S weather has always been unpredictable. And whether or not we are experiencing greater extremes of late remains a matter for debate.

But there’s no questioning the fact that severe bouts of heavy rain have led to flooding in parts in the country, and driving in such conditions greatly increases the dangers of loss of control and collisions through reduced visibility.

Road safety charity the IAM has the following advice for drivers in response to the recent severe weather warnings for heavy rain and wind:

  • Set your heater/demist controls before setting off. Rain can cause windows to mist quickly and you don’t want be fiddling with controls when you should be concentrating on the road
  • Slow down. In the rain your stopping distance can be at least doubled. And giving yourself more space helps you to avoid spray, especially when following a large vehicle
  • Concentrate on the road ahead and plan your driving so you can brake, accelerate and steer smoothly – harsh manoeuvres will unbalance your van or pick-up
  • Strong winds can easily unsettle your vehicle – especially large, high-sided vans. Strong gusts can even change your direction of travel. Keep a firm grip on your steering wheel and be aware of the effects of the elements on fellow road users, particularly motorcyclists and other flat-sided vehicles
  • Cruise control should not be used on wet roads. It might compound problems caused by aquaplaning
  • See – and be seen. Use your lights: as a rule, whenever you need to use your wipers you also need to turn on your headlights. Before overtaking, put your wipers on their fastest setting.
How to stay safe during extreme weather driving
Set your heater/demist controls before setting off

Flooding presents its own problems and where flooding is severe, you should reconsider whether you should make the journey at all. If you have to drive through deep water, you should take the following precautions:

  • Drive on the highest section of the road but don’t set off if a vehicle is approaching
  • Allow time and space to ensure you don’t swamp other cars or pedestrians
  • If you are unable to see where your vehicle is going to come out of the water, such as when approaching flooding on a bend, don’t drive into it until you can be sure you are able to exit safely
  • While driving in deep water never take your foot off the accelerator, as this could allow water to travel up the exhaust pipe
  • Once you’re clear of the water, dry your brakes before you need them by lightly apply the brake for a few seconds as you drive, having checked nothing is following you too closely.
How to stay safe during extreme weather driving
When approaching a flooded section, don’t drive into it until you can be sure you are able to exit safely

IAM chief examiner Peter Rodger told Business Vans: “A suddenly very wet road surface increases the chances of slipping when braking or steering, which is a problem not just for motorists, but cyclists and motorcyclists too.

“When driving your business van in wet conditions remember that stopping distances will increase, and visibility will be reduced. Drop your speed and give yourself more time to slow down.”

Keep up to date with developments in our Business Van News section.

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