Driving in the rain or fog can be uncomfortable and nerve-wracking. However, UK drivers have to do it more often than they would like – over the past thirty years, the average days of rainfall per year amounts to 156 days, almost half of the year.
You may feel anxious about driving in the rain, as the roads are wet, and your visibility may be impaired. It doesn’t have to be scary if you know the correct way to drive during bouts of heavy rain or fog.
- 10 Tips for Driving in the Rain
- Test Your Wipers Before Setting Off
- Drive On The Highest Section of The Road
- Give Yourself More Space
- Keep Your Headlights On Dipped Beam
- Avoid Heavy Braking
- Avoid Using Cruise Control
- Slow Down
- Beware Deep Water
- Always Use Your Windscreen Wipers
- What To Do If You Start Aquaplaning
- What is the Fog Light Symbol?
- When Should I Switch My Fog Lights On?
- 5 Tips For Driving in Fog
- Slow Down, Take More Time & Leave More Space
- Listen For Traffic If Visibility Is Difficult
- Delay Your Journey If It Isn't Urgent
- Take Manual Control Of Your Lights
- Don't Tailgate
There are a number of things you can do to keep yourself and other drivers safe when driving in the rain. Reduce your speed and use your headlight, even during the day. Utilise your fog lights and ensure your windscreen wipers are in good working condition.
10 Tips for Driving in the Rain
It is important to know the dangers of driving in the rain. Due to a slippery surface, you don't get the same traction as on a dry road. This reduces grip and can double your braking distance.
Here are ten tips to follow when you have to drive in the rain.
Test Your Wipers Before Setting Off
Your windscreen wipers’ job is to clear water from your windscreen effectively. Regularly check your wiper blades for any tears or worn rubber. They should be flat to the glass at all times. If you find any damage or you notice smears of water on the windscreen after use, you should replace them as soon as possible to improve your visibility when driving in the rain.
Drive On The Highest Section of The Road
Water pools at the edge of the road. If you drive closer to the lane divider, you're more likely to avoid the deepest puddles.
Use the kerb to judge the depth and avoid as much standing water as possible.
Give Yourself More Space
The stopping distance from 50mph in the dry is 53 metres. This increases to 106 metres in the rain due to the lack of tyre traction, so you should allow a bigger gap to the car should you have to use your brakes abruptly.
Nearly 30% (15 metres at 50mph) of that braking distance is 'thinking time', so you need to give yourself enough space to react and slow your car down safely.
Keep Your Headlights On Dipped Beam
You should always turn your headlights when it is raining, even if it is daylight. All visibility is reduced when it rains, so having your lights on will mean other drivers will be able to see you.
Switch them on as soon as it begins to rain. Automatic headlights are triggered by dim light rather than rain, so you may need to put them on manually during the day.
Only use the full beam setting if there are no other cars around. Otherwise, you can dazzle drivers coming the other way, especially with the light refracting off a wet road, which could cause accidents. Always be respectful of other drivers whilst driving in the rain.
Avoid Heavy Braking
If you stamp on the brake pedal while driving in the rain, you may lose control of your car. Instead, you should slow your vehicle down by taking your foot off the accelerator earlier than normal. Then, push gently on the brake pedal to come to a complete stop.
The same goes for turning your steering wheel – sharp turns may cause your car to lose control, especially if the roads are wet and slippery.
Avoid Using Cruise Control
If your car has cruise control, it can be tempting to use it all the time. However, this reduces your alertness and control over the car. Cruise control can't react to a skid or sudden loss of control, which could cause an accident.
Keep your foot on the accelerator so you can ease off and react to the road easily.
Traffic build-up generally means we drive slower in the rain anyway, but you should reduce your speed even if no one is around. The slippery road surface makes it easier for you to aquaplane.
Take your time and make sure you reach your destination safely, even if it means arriving a little later than planned.
Beware Deep Water
Large pools of standing water can be dangerous, especially if you can't actually see the road surface. There could be a pothole or large rock right in front of you or it could be much deeper than you think.
If you decide the standing water is safe enough to drive through, use first gear and maintain a steady speed. Afterwards, push the brake pedal to test your brakes and make sure they're not waterlogged.
Always Use Your Windscreen Wipers
Don't let rain build up on your windscreen. Use at least the intermittent setting of your windscreen wipers, even for a light drizzle.
It may sound like common sense, but some people forget to use their wipers in light rain. Make sure you can always see the way ahead.
What To Do If You Start Aquaplaning
Aquaplaning can be scary but slamming on your brakes makes it harder to control your vehicle.
Continue to steer in the direction you want to go. Fighting the car by turning the steering wheel can cause you to lose even more control. Take your foot off the accelerator and let your car slow down while it regains contact with the road.
What is the Fog Light Symbol?
There are different symbols for your front and rear fog lights (as shown below).
The lamp pointing to the left with a wavy line that has three lines through it controls the front fog lights, and the lamp pointing to the right with a wavy line that has three lines through it controls the rear fog lights.
When Should I Switch My Fog Lights On?
You must switch your fog lights on when your visibility is reduced to 100 metres or less. You must not use them at any other time as you can dazzle drivers and obscure your brake lights.
UK streetlights are less than 183 metres apart, so if you can see the next one, you don't need your fog lights. If you're driving on a motorway in fog, switch them on if you can't see three chevrons ahead of you. They are spaced 40 metres apart, so this is less than 120 metres of visibility.
In other situations, it will be more subjective. Always use your fog lights to make yourself visible in situations where your headlights aren't good enough.
You must switch your fog lights off when visibility improves. If you switch your engine off, your car may turn them off for you, but you should check before driving away again.
5 Tips For Driving in Fog
Thick fog drastically reduces your visibility, so you can't drive in the fog like you would on a clear day.
Here's how to stay safe when driving in foggy conditions.
Slow Down, Take More Time & Leave More Space
You should be extra aware while driving through the fog as other vehicles or pedestrians could come out of seemingly nowhere.
Always leave a three to four-second gap to the car in front and keep your speed under the speed limit. Try and leave yourself more time for your journey, but arriving a bit later is better than rushing and getting into an accident.
Listen For Traffic If Visibility Is Difficult
If you pull up to a junction and can't see in either direction, open a window to listen for approaching vehicles.
If your engine is the only one you can hear, it's safe to go - but don't assume no one is around just because you can't see anything.
Delay Your Journey If It Isn't Urgent
Can you work from home instead of travelling to the office? Can you reschedule your family visit or appointment for another day? If there's a way for you to avoid driving in the fog, try and take it.
If conditions are very bad, no journey is worth risking an accident.
Take Manual Control Of Your Lights
Automatic lights don't pick up gloomy conditions very well. Make sure that other drivers can see you coming and switch your lights to the dipped beam setting.
You can put the automatic setting on again as soon as conditions improve.
This often gives you a false sense of security and often end up straying too close to the vehicle in front. If they brake suddenly, you won't give yourself enough time to react.
Hang back and rely on your own lights instead.
Stay safe out there!