Storm Gladys: How to drive safely during the treacherous stormy weather

With Storm Eunice and Franklin causing floods and strong winds and Storm Gladys potentially sweeping the UK this week, a vehicle expert shares seven key tips on how to drive safely during a storm.

Yorkshire has been affected by Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin over the last week.

In response to the constant changing of the weather, the director of car and van expert Nationwide Vehicle Contracts, Keith Hawes, put together a list of seven tips for drivers.

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1. Be prepared

Here are some tips for motorists to stay safe on the roads during a storm. (Pic credit: Kevin Brady)

“The weather often catches Brits out without much notice, but the more prepared you can be for every eventuality, the better,” Mr Hawes said.

“Plus, ensuring your car is able to deal with all conditions is an important responsibility for any driver.”

His tips are to:

- Check your windscreen wipers to make sure they are in working condition and to remember that they need replacing at least once a year to make sure they are very efficient.

- Ensure that your tyres have enough tread. Legally you are expected to have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm.

- Lastly, check your heating to make sure it works. This is not just to keep yourself warm but also to clear the mist from the inside of your car’s windows.

2. Be a defensive driver

“Treat every car on the road with you as a potential hindrance. Inclement weather can see even the best drivers unexpectedly lose control of their vehicle,” he said.

“To avoid this, keep an extra firm grip on the wheel and be extra gentle with your breaks, suddenly braking is a sure way to slip off course.

“In poor conditions it’s ok to drive under the speed limit. It’s not a target, it’s a maximum and if it’s too windy, slippery or you lose visibility, safely pull over and wait for the worst to pass.”

3. React fast, think lights

Since even a little bit or rain or snow can massively reduce visibility, if you feel you need to put on your windscreen wipers, then that’s a sign that you should be modifying your whole driving technique, Mr Hawes said.

“You should slow down and turn on your headlights, even if it’s daylight, so that other drivers can see you,” he added.

“Make sure they’re dipped beams though, not your full beam fog lights or you could risk dazzling other drivers.”

4. You can see them, they can’t see you

As larger vehicles could pose an increased risk when visibility decreases, be extra aware of the space around you, particularly when you are close to lorries or buses.

You might see them, but they may not be able to see you, Mr Hawes said.

“Remember the two second rule. In normal conditions, always keep a minimum of a two-second time gap in front of your vehicles around you in order to create space in which to react in case of emergency. When the weather is bad, double it to four. The more space, the better.”

5. Avoid puddles or standing water on the road

Mr Hawes also advises that storms automatically cause water to collect on the roads and therefore can result in flooding even after a short bout of bad weather. So it’s important to avoid driving through any standing water as, although it may seem shallow, you never expect how deep the water level will be or what condition the road is underneath it.

“Driving through puddles also puts you at serious risk of aquaplaning. This is where water builds up between the tyre and the road beneath,” he added.

“This could result in your tyres losing traction and grip and you could find yourself unable to steer, brake or accelerate.”

6. Clear any snow from your car before any journey to avoid fines

According to Mr Hawes, it is very important that drivers make sure that their cars are in safe driving conditions in the event of snowfall.

Only clearing the snow or ice from part of your windscreen is known as ‘Portholing’ and can result in three points being taken from your licence as well as a £600 fine. By law it is vital that every glass panel must be clear enough to see out of and you must have a clear view of the road from all angles before you set off.

“While it is not illegal to drive with snow on your roof, it could put others or yourself at risk. If loose snow were to fall, it could obstruct your vision, or fall onto the car behind and impact their ability to see,” he said.

“You could then be charged with ‘driving without due consideration’ or ‘using a motor vehicle in a dangerous condition’ - which again can land you in a lot of trouble. It is always advised to fully wipe snow and ice from your roof and every window.”

Not only can you get fined for not clearing your roof or window, but if you don’t clear the ice or snow from your front and rear number plate, you could be charged a fine of up to £1,000 from Local Authorities. By law, all number plates must be clearly visible, as if it is obstructed, it can affect your car being picked up by speed cameras or police patrols.

7. If it’s stormy outside, stay inside

“First and foremost, if there are severe storms outside and you’re safe inside, avoid driving if it is not necessary,” Mr Hawes said.

“If you can afford to wait to drive until the storm has passed, then do. The old adage is right - it’s better to arrive safely than not at all.”