Storm Season Driving Advice
It’s that time of the year again and the first of the named storms is on the way to Ireland. Driving in storm force winds and heavy rain can be a challenge but there are a few tips are tricks you can use to aid you in your journey. Here we take a look at ten tips to aid you as we go into the darker months but above all, if you are not comfortable with the conditions that you find, don’t take a chance. Always put your safety and the safety of others ahead of any unnecessary trip.
Demist Windows Before You Set Off
We all know wet weather causes windows to mist-up, and clearing them can be a hassle, particularly if you’re running late. Make sure the heater settings are blasting air at the windscreen, not just into the cabin, and activate the demist button for the back windscreen. And remember that using the air conditioning will clear mist from windows much quicker than when it’s not on. That’s because the air con actually takes moisture out of the air before it’s expelled into the interior.
Keep Your Traction Control On
You might have seen a button in your vehicle that shows a car with a couple of wavy lines underneath it, as well as the word ‘OFF’. This refers to your car’s traction control. In some cars the button is labelled ‘DSC’ - for Dynamic Stability Control - or ‘ESP’ and ‘ESC’ for the Electronic Stability Control system. These systems are automatically set to ‘on’. But some motorists might be unsure what it means, and they might turn it off without thinking, or perhaps even accidentally deactivate it. Please, never turn off traction control. Traction control and stability control will automatically detect when a tyre is losing grip, and will either apply braking force to individual wheels to correct a skid, or can dial-down engine power to keep you safe. In wet weather, when the risk of skidding is high, ensuring that traction control is enabled is a must. Why would you ever choose to turn it off? That course of action is often reserved for when you get stuck in snow or ice, and you actually want plenty of wheel spin to try and gain some traction.
Go Easy At Junctions, Traffic Lights etc.
Wet weather equals less grip and ultimately a great chance of skidding. With this in mind, go easy on the accelerator when you’re pulling away from junctions and roundabouts. Laying down to much power can mean more wheel spin than forward momentum, and you could actually end up getting yourself in trouble. Find that balance between enough power, but not too much, so you can move away sharply.
The wet weather has also coincided with a drop in temperatures. But however cold you might be, you need to resist the urge to get behind the wheel while wearing any big, bulky jackets that might restrict your movements. It is common knowledge that before setting off, a driver must ensure clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner.
Avoid Standing Water Where Possible
When roads are constructed, they’re not typically flat. They have a slight high spots across each lane that then taper down to the left and right so that any water can run off into drains. So what you might see on motorways in particular is slightly more water pooling in certain areas. The most used/travelled part of the road tends to create a dry line just like in racing where the previous cars tyres have dispersed the water mass. This part of the road offers you the most grip and more than likely the least possibility of aquaplaning. If you do have to overtake, tuck back into the dry line as quickly as you can to mitigate the risk. Good tyre depts are essential to prevent aquaplaning.
Its Probably Best Not To Use Cruise Control
If you feel yourself aquaplaning, instinct will tell you to slam on the brakes - but you need to resist that temptation. Instead, ease off the accelerator slowly, keep the steering wheel straight, and when you feel traction once more, you can brake and slow down. Once in control, turn cruise control mode off, if it’s on, as having full, manual control of the accelerator is crucial when the car does sit on top of the water.
If it’s really lashing rain outside and visibility isn’t great, slow down and keep a safe gap to the car in front. You’ll see some appalling driving in wet weather, as some drivers take absolutely no notice of conditions and continue to tailgate. It’s an absolute recipe for disaster and extremely dangerous when visibility is reduced because of road spray.
Be Visible With Your Lights On
Again, it never fails to amaze how often you see people driving in terrible conditions, with reduced visibility because of the rain, without their lights on. Yes most modern cars have daytime running lights but these are often not enough when we travel in heavy rain. Just be sure you lights are on so others car see you.
Should You Use Your Fog Lights?
Front and rear fog lights are designed to increase your visibility in thick fog. But you might also need to turn them on in heavy rain if visibility is ‘seriously reduced’ to 100m or less. But remember that fog lights can dazzle other road users and you should only use them in extreme weather, not just in drizzle or light rain. When used please also remember to turn them off.
Check Those Tyres
It goes without saying that your tyres should be in good condition and have a depth of tread that falls within legal guidelines, which is above 1.6mm across the middle three quarters of the tyre. Having bald tyres will greatly increase skid risk. Be sure the pressure is right also setting it to the recommended PSI usually on the side of the tyre or sticker inside of the door.