Top tips for driving in extreme weather
The recent spate of record-breaking downpours and aggressive Atlantic storms has seen many towns and villages flood to previously unheard of levels.
Unfortunately the freak weather systems are showing no signs of dissipating and the next few days could see as much as a month's worth of rainfall fall on already heavily-flooded areas.
The situation has forced families to evacuate houses as well as traverse perilous roads in order to escape waterlogged areas and reach safer ground.
Many of us have little, if any experience tackling submerged roads so Peter Rodger, the Institute of Advanced Motorists' (IAM) chief examiner, has divulged some of his top tips for tackling deluged routes.
"In cases of severe flooding, you should reconsider making the journey at all," explained Rodger. But if it is absolutely necessary, the IAM suggests drivers take the following precautions:
- Drive on the highest section of the road and don't set off if a vehicle is approaching you
- Leave time and space to avoid swamping other cars and pedestrians
- Drive slowly and keep going once you have started – make sure you have a clear run. In a manual car, keep the revs high by "slipping the clutch" (which means the clutch is not fully engaged) all the time you are in the water
- If you can't see where you are going to come out of the water, such as when approaching flooding on a bend, think twice about starting to drive into it
- In deep water never take your foot off the accelerator, as this could allow water to travel up the exhaust pipe
- Once you're out of the water, dry the brakes before you need them. The best way is to lightly apply the brake as you drive along for a few seconds, after checking nothing is following you too closely
The harsh storms have also brought with them gale force winds that have the potential to fell trees and tip high-sided vehicles. If it is looking blustery outside, make sure you take the following precautions:
- Strong winds can also unsettle your car and even change your direction of travel
- Grip your steering wheel firmly and also be ready for the effects of the wind on other road users, particularly motorcyclists and flat-sided vehicles like lorries
- Plan your journey – is there a route with less exposure to the weather and less risk of fallen trees? Choose a sheltered route if you have the option
- Strong winds are not constant, they are usually gusty so ensure you hold the steering wheel firmly
- Overtaking high sided vehicles or driving past buildings can result in a sudden gust from the side as you clear
- Give cyclists, motorcyclists, lorries and buses more room than usual. They get blown around by side winds easily. Even pedestrians can be blown about
- Watch trees and bushes on the roadside - their branches can show you how strong the wind is
- Look well ahead, that way you don't need to take your eye off the road and you can see any windy patches before you get to them
- Go slow enough to cope with the gusts. Wind can get under a car and reduce its handling and braking significantly
- Keep an eye on what is happening to other vehicles – where they are affected will give you a pre warning
- Go slowly enough to cope with the tree that has fallen right across the road, just round the bend where you can't see it
- Be careful of debris, try and have space beside you in case you need to dodge it.