With the recent flooding in the north of England, the extreme impact of climate change has never felt more real. After just a few hours of heavy rainfall, some rivers across the country are liable to burst their banks, resulting in dangerous flash floods that put people’s lives, homes and businesses at risk. We’ve already seen the devastation caused over the Christmas period.
If you find yourself caught in your car during heavy rain or flash flooding, there are a number of things you should do to keep yourself, your passengers and your fellow road users safe.
Driving Through Heavy Rain and Standing Water
Driving in wet conditions can be dangerous, even if there’s just a few millimetres of standing water on the road. During a heavy downpour, visibility can be extremely limited, and puddles and surface water can easily cause aquaplaning, whereby your car loses traction and steering response.
When driving in heavy rain and standing water, remember to do the following:
- Use your headlights: Heavy rain will likely mean that visibility is extremely reduced, so you should switch on your headlights when you can’t see for more than 100m. In some cases it might be worth switching on your front and rear fog light, so long as you remember to switch them off when visibility improves.
- Double the distance between yourself and the car in the front: When it’s pouring down and there’s standing water on the road, stopping distances are almost doubled — so always leave twice the distance between you and the car in front.
- Ease off gradually if you start aquaplaning: If your car starts aquaplaning as a result of driving through standing water, your gut reaction may be to stamp on the brakes — but this could result in an uncontrolled skid. Instead, ease off the accelerator and start to slow down gradually, keeping both hands on the wheel and making light adjustments to the steering.
- Don’t speed through standing water and puddles: If there’s surface water on the road, there’ll likely be a lot of spray around that can affect other road users and pedestrians. If possible, avoid massive puddles by the kerbside and don’t speed through standing water as this will throw up water which will soak pedestrians and cyclists. If the police think you did so deliberately, they could give you a hefty fine and add 3-9 points on your license.
Driving Through Flash Floods
If the roads start to flood while you’re still miles from home, it’s important to follow these simple steps to make sure you stay safe — even if it means abandoning your car to seek shelter from the rising water:
- Only attempt to drive through water if you know it isn’t that deep: This is particularly important if you’re on an unfamiliar road, when your lack of local knowledge could mean you’re driving into deeper and more dangerous water. As a rule of thumb, you should never enter water that’s more than 10cm deep.
- Maintain a slow, steady speed: As you drive into a flooded section of road, maintain a very slow speed to make sure a bow wave doesn’t develop at the front of the car. Often, a car’s air intake is located low down under the bonnet, and just the smallest amount of water being sucked in through it can cause massive damage to the engine.
- Allow oncoming traffic to pass first: If there’s traffic moving in both directions, this will the make flood water choppy and create dangerous waves that could fully submerge your car. On a single carriageway, let other drivers pass before attempting to drive through a flooded section of the road.
- Don’t drive through fast-moving water: If the floodwater is flowing rapidly, do not attempt to drive through it as your car could easily be swept from the road. Even if the current is slow, deep floodwater is powerful enough to knock your car from the road surface.
- Test your brakes straight away after driving out of a flood: Excess water on the brakes can lead to a complete lack of stopping power, so you should always check the brakes after driving through a flood. Do this gently over a reasonably long distance.
- Use a low gear to increase the engine revs: When driving through a flood at low speed, water can easily get inside the exhaust, causing damage to the catalytic converter. To avoid this, stay in a low gear so the engine revs are higher.
To enjoy complete peace of mind whatever the weather, you can rely on Prestone. Our car maintenance products are developed to work in all extremes, so you can keep on driving no matter what the weather throws your way. To find out more, visit the Prestone website.