Weather Conditions

Overview:

To know and understand how various weather conditions can affect how you drive

Aims:

To know the skills required to be able to safely drive in various conditions and to understand how this may affect the way your car handles.

Objectives

  • To be able to drive safely in all conditions
  • To understand how different conditions may affect visibility, speed and stopping distances
  • To understand what road signs may show changing weather conditions

In bad weather always make sure your car is in good condition before starting any trip.

Check your tyres regularly to ensure they are undamaged, are inflated correctly and have sufficient tread.

Keep your brakes well maintained – stopping can take much longer on wet or slippery roads.

Wet Roads

A wet road will reduce tyre grip so slow down. Keep well back from other vehicles, allow at least twice the normal stopping distance for your car.

Be considerate of pedestrians and cyclists on wet roads. Slow down and give them more room when you pass especially if there are large puddles.

Spray from other vehicles may reduce or temporarily stop you being able to see the road ahead. If there is spray then you should slow down. Spray is particularly likely when overtaking a large vehicle.

If you come across a flooded road stop and assess how deep the water is. Do not just drive into it. If the water seems too deep for your vehicle do not enter it. Turn around and find another route. If the water is less deep drive through slowly and keep to the shallowest part.

After driving through water (especially a flood) always check your mirrors and then check your brakes.

Wind

Some vehicles may become unstable in strong winds. This happens on exposed stretches of road: motorways and bridges. At its worst this can result in the vehicle being blown off the road or onto its side.

Wind can also affect cyclists and motorcyclists causing them to be blown sideways and into your car’s path. In windy conditions always allow cyclists and motorcyclists extra room especially when you are overtaking.

Fog 

Fog is one of the most dangerous weather conditions.

If you are only able to see a short distance in fog then always ask yourself if your journey is necessary or can it be postponed. If you decide to continue with your planned journey always allow extra time.

Driving in fog:

Fog causes reduced visibility and can reduce your ability to judge hazards, speed and distances. When driving in fog you must:

  • Slow down
  • Be able to stop within the distance you can see
  • Give yourself plenty of time, stick to a safe speed
  • Use dipped headlights if visibility is reduced
  • Allow plenty of space between your car and the vehicle in front of you

Remember that fog can be patchy. At one moment the fog can look fairly minor but then suddenly become very dense. Be aware you can have pockets of fog.

Always be extra cautious when overtaking or at a junction when driving in fog. At a junction wind your window down a bit as you might be able to hear a vehicle coming. Only overtake if you are absolutely sure you can clearly see the road in front of you. At a junction always start indicating as early as possible. Make use of your lights and don’t turn or emerge unless you are sure it is safe to do so.

If you break down in fog get your car off the road if at all possible. Inform the police and leave your hazard warning lights on.

Snow and ice 

Only drive in snow and ice if your journey is essential.

If you are planning to drive in snow or ice always:

  • Clear all snow and ice from all of your cars windows before setting off
  • Clear all snow and ice from all lights so they can be seen by other road users
  • Clear snow and ice from mirrors to give you the best visibility possible
  • Clear snow from the roof and bonnet so that it doesn’t cause a hazard to you or other road users
  • When driving in falling snow use dipped headlights as you would in heavy rain
  • Be aware that snow can obstruct road markings
  • Keep your car’s speed down especially on icy or slippery surfaces

In snow or ice braking distances can be 10 times further than normal. Allow plenty of distance between you and other traffic.

When braking on snow or ice use the brake pedal gently to prevent your wheels from locking. Get into a lower gear earlier than normal and allow your speed to lower before braking.

When cornering on snow or ice adjust your speed so you don’t need to use your brakes on a corner. Try not to use your clutch and steer smoothly.

When the weather is getting worse, pay attention to the outside temperature. Most modern cars will have this somewhere on the dash. Be aware that the road may have a colder more icy surface in the shade. Sometimes it may vary anyway.

Hot weather / Sunshine

One of the main problems when driving in the sunshine is glare. If the roads are wet and the sun is shining reflected glare can make seeing clearly even more difficult.

If you are being dazzled by bright sunshine take extra care. Stop if necessary. If might take a moment for your eyes to adjust. Look out for pedestrians and cyclists and be prepared to stop quickly if needed.

Be aware that turning a corner might suddenly move you into bright sunlight. Going in and out of tunnels your eyes may take a few minutes to adjust.

Glare can be worse in the autumn and winter months when the sun is lower in the sky. Keep a spare pair of sunglasses in your car and use them when necessary. Use your sun visor to cut out as much glare as possible. Keep your windscreen clean and as part of your driving routine wash and wipe your front and rear windscreens before a journey.

When driving in the heat, make sure you have plenty of ventilation in your car. Take plenty of breaks for refreshments to ensure you do not become dehydrated.

Don’t drive in your bare feet or open toed sandals. If you have ever stubbed your toes you will know why.

Warning signs 

Always look out for road signs. Think what they can mean for your driving. Common signs include fog warnings, flood warnings and wind warnings. Always be prepared to lower your speed or allow a larger stopping distance.

Get information regarding the weather and road conditions before your journey. Check the internet. Allow more time if you have to make the journey.

Recap 

Always be prepared for changing weather conditions when driving. Allow extra stopping distance between your car and other vehicles especially if roads are slippery or wet. Look out for other road users and pedestrians especially if visibility is reduced.

Always ensure you clear your cars windows, mirrors and lights of any snow or ice. Ensure you maintain your car and perform regular checks to make sure your car is in good condition.

In very poor weather always consider if your journey is absolutely necessary and consider postponing plans if possible.

You should know:

  • How the weather can affect your driving
  • What to do to cope with the different effects of the weather
  • How to prepare and what to look out for

Further Reading:

The Highway Code Rule(s): 226-237

Driving The Essential Skills: Section(s) 12

On your driving test:

On Test: Weather Conditions

Assessment criteria will be marked under where the particular faults are committed.

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