No one likes driving in the rain and fog, but we all do it a lot more than we like to. Between 2014 and 2018, an average of 1,459.5 mm of rain was dumped on roads and streets of the United Kingdom across a total of 810 days. That works out at roughly 162 days of rainfall a year. That’s a lot of rainy, miserable and potentially foggy days – but how safe are you at driving in those conditions? Do you even treat them any differently to a sunny summer’s day? Well, we’ve put together some handy tips to get you and your car ready to go driving in the rain and fog.
5 simple checks for driving in the rain and fog
Check your tyre pressure
Under-inflated tyres become a massive liability when the roads are slippery. An under-inflated or even over-inflated tyre is a significant cause of accidents in the UK. Take some time to make sure yours are at the correct pressure before you go driving in the rain and fog.
Check your tyre tread
If you’ve had your MOT test recently, you might have been made aware of any issues with your tyre tread. If not, it might be worth giving them a quick check. Not only is it illegal to drive on tyres with less than 1.6 mm of tread depth, but you’ll also have much less grip on the road if your tyres are low on tread. Take 5 minutes to go around your car, inspecting each tyre groove with a 20p piece. If you can see the inner ring across the majority of one or more tyres, chances are you need new ones. Find a local mechanic to get them changed before you can come to any harm.
Check that your heater works
Rain and fog can quickly cause condensation to form on the inside of your windscreen, reducing your visibility of the road ahead. In these situations, you need to be able to demist your windscreen quickly – that’s where your heater comes in. Regularly check your heater to make sure it is producing hot air and that your windscreen demister also works, should your car have one. Make sure you have a cloth to hand, just in case your heater packs up on the move.
Check that your windscreen wipers work
Your windscreen wipers are incredibly important in keeping you safe in the rain. If they can’t clear water from your windscreen, you can’t see where you’re going. While it’s dry, give them a quick feel to check for tears or worn rubber. If they look a bit dirty, give them a gentle clean with a cloth. If you notice smears of water on your windscreen, or they’re not clearing the rain as well as they should, think about replacing them as soon as possible.
Check that your headlights work
Your headlights are another incredibly important part of safe driving in rain and fog. If your headlights are dim or don’t work, other drivers won’t be able to see you on the roads. Before you get in the car, switch your headlights on and make sure all the bulbs work. It’s also worth checking your owner’s manual if you don’t know where your fog lights are – you don’t want to be caught out fumbling for them when fog rolls in and settles over the road.
Got a few wrong? Here’s what you should be doing when driving in rain and fog
Double your distance
When driving in the rain and fog, you should always leave a four-second gap to the car in front. This is because your braking distance is doubled on a wet road and you need to give yourself that extra time to react.
Adjust your driving style
Don’t get overconfident. You should always drive slower in the rain and fog to give yourself the best chance of reacting to anything that might happen. The increase in braking distance means that the slower you go, the safer you will be.
Not only that but driving slightly closer to the centre of the road helps avoid deep puddles. Roads are raised slightly in the middle, so water drains towards the edges – meaning your car could be swimming a lot more than it should be if you don’t move across.
Take it easy
Large pools of standing water can be incredibly dangerous – especially if you can’t actually see the road surface. There could be a pothole or other dangerous object right in front of you, lying in wait. If you decide the standing water is safe enough to drive through, use first gear and maintain a steady speed. Afterwards, check your brakes thoroughly to make sure they’re not waterlogged.
No one likes being splashed by a puddle, so don’t be the driver that ruins someone else’s day. Approach all puddles with care and show “reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place.” You could be charged with “careless and inconsiderate driving” under the Road Traffic Act of 1988 if you don’t. And, with the introduction of new laws, you could even face a fine.
Aquaplaning is one of the scariest sensations you can experience behind the wheel of a car. It’s when your tyres lose grip on the road and skim across the surface of the water itself, like a boat. If you try and brake too firmly, you could lose control of your car. Make sure your tyres have a deep enough tread to dispel the majority of the water pooling on the road surface and contact a good local garage if you have any concerns about the quality of your tyres. You’ll save yourself a fright on a wet road.
Make sure you can see the road ahead at all times
It’s better to put your headlights on too early rather than too late. If you think other drivers might struggle to see you, switch them on with your engine. Be considerate with your headlights. Keep them dipped so you don’t dazzle other drivers, especially if the roads are wet as they’ll reflect headlights already.
Switch your windscreen wipers on early as well – preferably as soon as it begins to rain steadily. Put them on full, not intermittent. The ferocity of British rain can change in a second, so keep them on, even if it seems like the rain is slowing down. You don’t want to get caught out by a thunderous downpour.
Could you find your fog lights?
Driving in thick fog can be scary. If you don’t know where your fog lights are, or how they work, check your owner’s manual as soon as possible. You don’t want to be caught out. As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t see more than 100 m in front of you or the rear headlights of the car you’re following, switch your fog lights on.
Driving in rain and fog can be a daunting task. Hopefully, you already drive well and keep other road users safe, but following these tips will help make you even safer. Because, when visibility is poor, you never know what might happen…