How should I drive in the rain?

Driving in the rain is a regular task you will experience as a driver, but along with heavy rain comes many different dangers. Wet road surfaces cause stopping distances to increase by more than double the amount required when driving on a dry surface. The general rule is that on a dry day you must leave at least a two second time gap between you and the car in front, meaning that in wet conditions this must be increased to four seconds or more depending on the severity of the rain.

Tips For Driving In The Rain

Here are our top tips on how to drive in the rain:

  • If it is raining before you set off, always check your windscreen wipers are in full working condition before you set off. They will be essential for visibility on your journey.
  • Turn on your dipped headlights. Rain often causes the sky to become dark and dismal, making visibility reduced, turn on dipped headlights to ensure other drivers can see you easily.
  • Keep an extra distance from large vehicles such as lorries; they could cause spray which will limit your visibility.
  • Watch out for pedestrians and cyclists; heavy rain makes it harder to notice pedestrians and cyclist on the side of the road or at pedestrian crossings, so always make it a routine to check all mirrors and your blind spot.
  • Slow down more and take extra care when approaching a junction or taking on tight turns to avoid spinning out.
  • If steering starts to feel out of your control, ease off your acceleration and brake slowly and gradually. Never make any sudden braking movements, unresponsive steering is an indication that your tyres are losing grip.
  • Look out for oil on the road, rain settling on top of oil will create a huge skid hazard.
  • Avoid big puddles; they could be disguising a pothole.
  • Rain causes your windscreen to steam up, so always keep the air conditioning on to avoid losing your primary source of visibility.

Car Driving through A Puddle

Why Does The Stopping Distance Increase In The Rain?

To keep tyres gripped safely onto the road surface, there needs to be a considerable amount of friction between the two. During rainfall, water will either create a layer on top of the road or run like a stream down the roads surface, both of which causes friction to be reduced, increasing the likelihood of skidding.

Your stopping distance will vary depending on the speed you are driving at, here are some examples of different speeds along with their stopping distance:

Remember: These measurements will be at least doubled when driving in the rain.

stopping distances
Table is from the Driving Test Success website.

What Is Aquaplaning?

Aquaplaning is a huge issue that is caused by heavy rain and causes the drives to not only lose control of the car’s steering, but they are also unable to accelerate or brake. When the rainfall builds up on the road, it stops the tyres from being able to grip causing aquaplaning. If your engine starts to sound louder and the steering becomes light, it is a massive indication that your vehicle is aquaplaning. Always remain calm in this situation, you will need to slowly ease off the accelerator and only when you feel the car slowing down can you start to brake gently. Keep your steering wheel straight and don’t try to steer in different directions.

What Happens If There Is Heavy Rain On Your Test?

If rain is heavy enough to cause flooding it will be considered a dangerous weather condition; your driving test will not be carried out. If you are unsure whether your test may be cancelled, you must call your test centre on the day, an hour or so before you are scheduled to take your test. A heavy downpour often stops after a short amount of time meaning that if the rain clears, you will more than likely still be able to take your test unless there is severe flooding in your local area.

Rain On A Car Window

We spoke to Chris Cochrane who teaches in Milton Keynes and Buckingham about his opinion on teaching in the rain and any advice he has on the subject:

“Of course, if the weather conditions could run the risk of danger to my pupils I will not carry out a driving lesson. I teach many pupils in Buckingham, which has many country roads which often flood meaning lessons cannot take place. However, I do believe that is it crucial for learners to experience at least one of their driving lessons in the rain. Without practice, many people panic when faced with driving in heavy rain and sometimes it is an unavoidable situation. My best advice is to stay calm and take your time; no one will rush you and your safety along with others driver’s safety is of the utmost importance. I can guarantee that once you have conquered the task once, you will wonder why you ever worried!”

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