Thursday, 2 January 2014


River Medway in Maidstone. (pic Twitter @ourmaidstone)

For some a Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year was not possible this festive season. Storm conditions in many parts the country brought misery to many. Kent experienced some of the worst conditions of all over the Christmas period. Yalding, Tonbridge and Maidstone amongst others was hit hard. The River Medway bust it's banks in many areas along its route. The bridge at Teston completely submerged and Tonbridge and Maidstone flooded. Recent figures released by the AA and the Environment Agency suggests that 54% of drivers would risk driving through flood water. Not surprisingly its male drivers likely to risk it, but surprisingly it's not young drivers who would take the biggest risk. The over 55's would drive through the deepest flood water!  

Medway River claiming a leisure boat and later Bridges Restaurant.
(pic: Twitter @kmfmnews) 
What can you do when faced with flooded roads? Best and probably the only advice is turn around and find alternative route. It only takes 15cm of fast moving water to knock a person off their feet. 30cm of water can move a standard size car. The risks are simply not worth it. AA / Environment Agency say that 32% of flood related deaths are in a vehicle. If your caught in flood water, get out, get to a place of safety and if necessary call for help. 

Of course, in storm conditions it's not just flood water that poses a hazards on the roads. Surface water will become a problem, especially on faster moving sections of road, like dual carriageways and motorways. Keep your speeds down, double your breaking distance and keep both hands on the wheel! If you do hit standing water and start aqua planing, don't brake!, simply lift you foot of the throttle. Braking hard while aqua planing increases the risk of skidding. If any of the wheels lock up during aqua planing when the tyre makes contact with the road surface again the chance of one wheel locked and others not might send the vehicle into a swerve and thus into a skid. Anti-lock breaks might help, but they can do only so much. 

Teston bridge disappeared in the flood water
(pic: Twitter @SkyFlyVideo)
Also don't using cruise control. Some vehicles have been know to try and maintain speed when the vehicle is aqua planing, and tries to increase speed when the wheels are not in contact with the road surface. Other vehicles cruise control would drop out, but unless it's detailed in your owners manual, it really is not worth the risk leaving it on to find out. 

Good tyres is a must. Aqua planing happens when water can not disperse under the surface of the tyre. The groves in the tyre helps to disperse that water. Deeper the grove the more water can get in between the grip and thus less water under the part that should be in contact with the road. So therefore if your running at the legal limit or indeed below, you'll have greater chance of aqua planing. Correct inflation is also important to reduce the effects of aqua planing too.  Remember, the area the size of a CD or DVD is the only part that is in contact with the road surface. 

Debris on the road poses a threat to drivers too.  Keep an eye out for anything in the road. Look ahead to your limit point, the point you can see furthest ahead in the distance. If visibility is reduced, reduce your speed. Remember, you should be able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear. 

Sainsbury's car park in Tonbridge took the full force of the floods.
(pic: Twitter @TheDukeofSutton)
Clear view is also a good idea. Obvious, yes. But a number of drivers who set of in the mornings with misted windows, not just side windows, but windscreens is shocking. Figures have shown that most accidents happen within three miles from home. If your de-misting your windscreen during those first three miles, you'll be increasing the risk rather more. (we're not suggesting you start de-misting after the first three miles either!)  Clear your view before you set off is very important and not to be under estimated.  

Speaking of seeing clearly, it's worth switching your head lights on too. Don't rely on Day Light Running Lights either. Most DRL do not eliminate at the rear. Being seen from the front and back is important too. 

Carry some extra supplies too.  Some water both for vehicle and people in the car is worth a consideration. Maybe high energy drinks too. A little food, again something high in energy. A travel blanket or something extra to keep you warm just in case you do have to walk any distance either back home or to a phone to summon some help. Also give yourself extra time for your journey. Don't leave home at the last minute only to find your route is blocked or you run into bad traffic. Check online traffic reports before you leave (not while your driving) These can be found at The Highways Agency, The AA and the BBC. Flood advice and reports can be found at the Environment Agency website.

And if the weather is that bad, ask yourself, "Is my journey really worth the risks?" 

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