Summer rain, particularly after a prolonged dry spell, can create hazardous driving conditions.
The standard advice for driving in heavy rain still applies: slow down, used dipped headlights, turn on your windscreen wipers and keep your distance.
But, as an American motoring organisation points out, drivers are at greater risk in the moments immediately after it starts raining. Dr Bill Van Tassel, AAA national manager of driving training programmes, said: “Conditions are most dangerous during the first 10 minutes of a heavy downpour as oil and debris first rise to the road’s surface, then wash away.
“Knowing how to handle poor traction reduces the potential for hydroplaning (aquaplaning), skidding or sliding off the road completely.”
This view is echoed by Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA), who said: “Wet roads after a prolonged hot, dry period can become slippery. In addition to ensuring that their tyres are in good condition and properly inflated, motorists should slow down and drive with care.
During periods of prolonged hot weather, the bitumen in asphalt roads ‘bleeds’ through to the surface, reducing the texture depth and wet skidding resistance.
How to prepare your car for summer rain
The preparation for driving in summer rain begins before you start your journey – it’s too late if you get caught in a sudden downpour on the motorway. The following tips should keep you safe:
- Check your windscreen wipers and replace them if necessary. Drivers of older vehicles could consider upgrading to newer ‘aero’ wipers.
- Ensure that you have sufficient washer fluid. Road grime, dead insects and dust can leave a greasy film on the windscreen, which could restrict your vision with the wipers turned on.
- Check your tyres. Although the legal tyre tread depth is 1.6 mm, you should change your tyres when the depth reaches 3 mm. Also ensure that the tyres are inflated to the correct pressure.
- Check the weather forecast. If possible, time your journey to coincide with dry weather.
How to drive in summer rain
- Used dipped headlights – don’t rely on automatic headlights.
- Don’t rely on your daytime running lights, which could dazzle oncoming drivers in low-light conditions.
- Don’t use fog lights, which can mask brake lights and dazzle other motorists.
- Slow down to give yourself more time to react to hazards such as queuing traffic and standing water. The faster you drive, the greater the risk of aquaplaning.
- Allow at least double the stopping distance between you and the vehicle in front.
- Do not use cruise control.
For more general advice for driving in heavy rain and floods, check out the RAC’s in-depth guide.