Last updated:
February 12, 2024
Written by
Grace Patel

Essential Guide to Safe Driving in Heavy Rain and Floods

Ever wondered if there were some steps you could take when driving in heavy rain or potential flooding zones? Check out some of our tips here! In the UK, we are no strangers to less-than-ideal weather and driving conditions! That is why it is so important for us to be equipped with knowledge and strategies for navigating heavy rain and flooded roads safely.

So let’s crack on! This guide provides vital tips for you as a driver to drive as safely as possible - minimising the risk of car accidents and vehicle breakdowns in the wonderful British weather. 

Preparing for Driving in Heavy Rain

Before setting out, consider the following ensure a safer journey in rainy weather conditions:

  • Journey Assessment: Is your trip necessary, or can it wait until the weather looks a little brighter?
  • Route Planning: Choose routes that avoid known flood areas, and prepare for  traffic delays due to wet roads (basically, leave yourself plenty of time - and then more - to get somewhere. 
  • Let People Know: Let your friends or relatives know about your travel plans and your estimated arrival time.
  • Vehicle Readiness: Is your car ready to brave the heavy rain? Check your car's windscreen wipers and tyre conditions (don’t worry, we have a whole blog all about tyre safety, recommendations and tread depth).
  • Petrol Considerations: Start with a full tank, as traffic jams in bad weather can lead to your car using more fuel than usual. 
  • Weather and Traffic Updates: Stay tuned to local weather forecasts and traffic reports for updates on road closures and flood warnings.
  • Keep That Mobile Charged: In case of needing emergency communication, make sure that your mobile phone is charged. Even better? Fully charge your phone and take a nifty power bank with you.
  • Tyre Safety: Make sure that your tyres meet UK legal requirements for tread depth, ensuring optimal grip on wet roads.

Tips for Driving in Heavy Rain

  • Speed Management: Lower your speed to improve reaction time and increase stopping distance.
  • Safe Distance: Keep a larger gap from the vehicle ahead, following the four-second rule in heavy rain.

Normally, you should keep a two-second gap from the car in front, but in the rain, you should double this to four seconds. This means when the car ahead passes a point, like a signpost, you should be able to count to four before you pass the same point. This extra space helps you stop safely on wet roads.

  • Improve Visibility: Use low beam headlights for better visibility and to alert other drivers.
  • Spray and Skid Prevention: Be aware about water spray from other vehicles and try to avoid aquaplaning.
  • Activate the AC: Activate your car's air conditioning to keep windows clear of condensation.
  • Breakdown Preparedness: In case of a vehicle breakdown, protect your car's electrical system by keeping the bonnet closed.

Understanding and Preventing Aquaplaning

Aquaplaning happens when a vehicle's tyres can't push away the water on the road fast enough. This causes the vehicle to lose traction and slide uncontrollably on the water's surface, making it hard to steer, brake, or accelerate. It's often caused by high speeds or worn tyre treads.
So here is what you can do to avoid it!

  • Reduce Your Speed: Slowing down helps maintain tyre traction and control over the vehicle.
  • Tyre Maintenance: Regularly check tyres for adequate tread (yes, tyre tread really is that important) and correct pressure for wet weather driving.
  • Recognising Aquaplaning: Try to familiarise yourself with the sensation of losing control, like drifting, and respond calmly (we know this is hard, but often panic reactions can cause even more problems)

Navigating Puddles and Floods

Tackling standing water on roads requires careful approach and consideration.

  1. Water Depth Assessment: Always evaluate the depth before driving through flooded areas.
  2. Alternative Routes: If the water seems too deep, take a different route to avoid risks.
  3. Navigate Carefully: Go through water cautiously to prevent damage to your vehicle’s undercarriage.
  4. Maintain Momentum: Use appropriate gear and revs to keep moving through water without stalling.
  5. Post-Water Checks: After crossing water, allow excess water to drain and dry your brakes gently.

What to Do If You Break Down in the Rain

Protect Your Car’s Electrical System: Avoid opening the bonnet to prevent water damage to the electrical components.

Avoid Restarting Your Engine: If your car stops in water, don’t restart to prevent engine damage; instead, signal for help.

Driving in heavy rain and through potential flood zones requires a mix of preparedness, awareness, and cautious driving. By following the tips we have collected here – from journey assessment to understanding and preventing aquaplaning – you're not only ensuring your safety but also contributing to the safety of others on the road.

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