This guide explains how to stay safe behind the wheel in bad weather conditions and also when you should avoid driving
The only thing predictable about British weather is the fact it's totally unpredictable. From flash floods and gale force winds to snow drifts and golf ball-sized hail stones, the UK gets all kind of weather. But what does this all mean for our cars? And more specifically, how does it affect your car insurance?
How should you drive through heavy rain?
Particularly heavy rain isn’t easy to drive through, so if your journey isn’t essential, consider delaying the trip until the showers ease off.
If you have to drive, remember that stopping distances increase in wet weather. Leave at least a 4-second gap between you and the car in front. Be aware of cars around you, particularly if they make any sudden turns, as you could be sprayed with water which in turn could reduce visibility.
Depending on the circumstances, you may also need to turn on your dipped headlights so you can see the road ahead and be visible to other drivers. If you feel like your windscreen is misting, turn on your air conditioning.
If bad weather is expected, you should also make sure your home is protected.
Should you drive if there’s flood warnings?
No, driving is not recommended. Keep an eye on local forecasts; the Met Office and the Environment Agency have accurate and trusted information on predicted weather patterns.
Really consider before you attempt to drive through high water. Know that you may be putting other motorists in danger, as just two feet of water could sweep a car away. Don't think your car will be safe to drive through a flooded area just because you see another car doing so successfully. If your area is flooded and your car is submerged, do not try to start the engine.
If you really must drive, keep your car in first gear and drive as slow as you can.
What should I do with my car if floods are forecast?
If possible, move your car to higher ground. If you take a risk and drive your car into a flood, your insurance may not cover you for any damage caused. Click here to read our guide to flood damage and car insurance.
How should you drive in wind or high gales?
High winds are extremely unpredictable for driving – so you should make sure you travel with extreme caution, especially on open road where there is little coverage.
The best way to tackle winds is to make sure you keep a close eye on the road and a hard grip on the steering wheel. Make sure to keep a large amount of space in between the driver in front of you.
Should you drive in fog?
Thick mists can be beautiful if you’re walking in the countryside, but the pea-soup fogs they create are much riskier for motorists. Unfortunately in fog, there is little you can do to significantly improve your visibility, save use your front and rear fog lights to help other motorists see you. Be sure to drive slowly to help lower the risk of accidents.
Do not, however, use your high-beam headlights if the fog is very thick: their light will reflect off the fog and make it even harder for you to see.
How can you be prepared for snow and ice?
In cold periods, check the forecasts regularly. If snow or ice is predicted, grit your driveway in advance so you’re able to get in and out of your home safely. If you don't have grit, cat litter will work just as well.
You should always keep an emergency kit of useful items in your car. However, this is particularly important to remember in bouts of cold weather. Things like blankets, extra layers, a torch, some food, water and a spade may all come in handy if you end up stranded in your car.
If the forecast looks bad, it can be useful to have a read of the Highway Code to avoid any penalty fines. Did you know that if you drive with snow on your roof or blocking your windows you could end up with penalty points?
How should you drive in snowy or icy conditions?
It can take up to ten times longer to stop on an icy road, so always allow plenty of space between you and the car in front. Drive slowly and carefully, even if there is no visible snow or ice. If the temperature has dropped below zero it is possible there could be black ice on the road, which can be particularly hazardous as it is difficult to spot.
There are ways to prevent problems when the snow starts to fall. Here’s what you can do:
- Firstly, make sure the journey in the car is absolutely necessary – if you can avoid driving on snow, do so
- A good checklist of equipment to stock up on should include a good shovel, an ice-scraper, a demisting pad, spare screen wash, plenty of de-icer, a phone charger, a map, and a big square of carpet for your tyres to grip on to should you get stuck in the snow
- Your tyres should also be fully inflated, and should meet the minimum legal tread-depth requirements. If you live in an area that is prone to serious snowfall, purchasing specialised winter tyres, or ‘snow tyres’, is a good idea
- While driving, the Highway Code advises driving slowly in as high a gear as possible, and braking and accelerating gently.
Does car insurance cover me in extreme weather?
If you have a fully comprehensive policy you may be able to claim for damage to your vehicle, however, as a policyholder it is your responsibility to protect your car from loss or damage. This likely includes avoiding unnecessary risks, such as driving through a heavily flooded area.
Mechanical and electrical failures are not covered under your Admiral policy so don't take the risk if you don’t have to drive.