Tips for staying safe when driving in heavy rain and floods

Before you drive
• Avoid driving during heavy rain and floods if possible
• If you must drive, check the weather reports and traffic updates and take care when choosing a route
• Check wipers, tyre pressure and headlights are all ok and in good working order
• Make sure you fill up with fuel before your journey

In heavy rain 
• Use headlights when visibility is reduced – generally when you can’t see for more than 100m (Highway Code)
• Stopping distances increase on wet roads – double the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you

What is aquaplaning?
• Aquaplaning is when your vehicle loses traction with the road surface when you drive through standing water. As the tyres pass through the water, the wheels briefly lose contact with the surface of the road as they glide on a cushion of water. The driver will lose control of the car for that moment and may feel a “lightness” in steering and the back end of the vehicle may start to “fish-tail”
• Damaged or worn tyres, excessive speed, poor road surface quality and deep water all increase the chances of this occurring

Dealing with aquaplaning
• Disengage cruise control if you have it
• Don’t brake
• Keep both hands on steering wheel and continue to gently steer the car in the direction you were travelling
• Wait for the car to find traction before accelerating again

Driving through standing water
• If you can’t avoid the water, slow down gradually and choose a lower gear – pressing your foot on the clutch pedal and revving the engine can help to keep your exhaust clear in a manual car
• Avoid creating a large bow wave and try to choose the shallowest route – which is usually the crown of the road.
• Allow oncoming traffic to pass first and wait till you have a clear route before passing through to avoid having to stop in the water
• Check brakes afterwards as soon as possible
• Depth of water can be deceptive so make sure you can safely drive through – don’t drive though a flood which you couldn’t walk through and remember that water can hide dips in the road. Even worse, the water may have damaged the road surface or there may be hidden obstacles – you really don’t know what you are dealing with under the water
• Just 15cm of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars – this can lead to you losing control of the car and possibly cause the car to stall as water is sucked into the exhaust or the air intake
• 30cm of water will cause most cars to start to float and therefore you won’t be able to control the car. You may be able to counter this by opening a door and allowing some water in the car to weigh you down and allow the tyres to grip again (best to get a passenger to do this)
• Moving flood water can be particularly dangerous – your car, however heavy, can easily be swept away