Thursday, 28 March 2013

Rain, rain, go away

When April comes, April showers arrive. Great news for gardeners and the general public alike. A welcome change from the bitter cold of this winter. Good news – I hear you say, except for the inconvenience of wet shoes and frizzy hair. 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.

Rain makes the windows mist up in seconds, so adjust your heater controls before you set off. You don't want to be squinting through condensation, driving rain, and fiddling with controls when you should be concentrating on the road.

 

As in all bad weather, slow down.  In the rain your stopping distance should be at least doubled.  Giving yourself more space helps you to avoid spray, especially when following a large vehicle. And be especially cautious after prolonged dry spells – surface rain on dry roads is dangerously slippery.

 

Keep your eyes on the road ahead and plan your driving so that you can brake, accelerate and steer smoothly – harsh manoeuvres will unbalance the car. If you see pools or running water on the road, don't brake or accelerate into it. Ease off the accelerator as you cross it, grip the steering wheel firmly and steer straight ahead.

 

Avoid using cruise control on wet roads – it may create problems if you start to aquaplane.

 

In stormy conditions, it is more difficult to see other vehicles, road signs and the road itself. Make sure you can see and be seen. Put your lights on – whenever you use your wipers you probably also need your headlights. Before overtaking put your wipers on their fastest setting.

Even if the water on the road looks shallow, it may be much deeper than you think. Before driving across a flooded patch of road, ask yourself if there is another way. If you do need to carry on, drive on the highest section of the road, but don't set off if a vehicle is approaching you through the water. Remember, the water will hide other hazards such as potholes.

Once you are in the water, give room to other cars and pedestrians to avoid swamping them, and drive slowly but maintain momentum – taking your foot off the accelerator in deep water could allow water to travel up the exhaust pipe.  In a manual car, keep the revs high by keeping the clutch partly engaged while in the water. Once you're out of the water, dry the brakes by lightly applying them several times, after checking there is no traffic close behind you.

 

Making sure your car is properly maintained will make a difference too. Check your wipers regularly, that your tyres are properly inflated and have enough tread, and that all of your lights work. By law, you must keep the windscreen washer filled, but remember, to keep your windows clean, you must do the inside as well.

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