Driving in rainy conditions

Driving in rainy conditions

Whilst rain is fairly common throughout the year in the UK, the period between October to January is the wettest.

This post includes important driving advice supplied by IAM Roadsmart.

Heavy rain affects visibility, so always take your driving seriously and slowly. Rule 126 of the Highway Code states that the braking distance between your car and the vehicle in front should be at least four seconds when driving in the wet. NB: You need a stopping distance of just two seconds in the dry.

Tips when driving in heavy rain

Here are some useful tips when driving in or after heavy rain.

Braking Distance

Imagine you need to brake suddenly in wet conditions from a speed of 50mph. If your tyres are just on the safety limit ie with 1.6mm tread, it’ll take you 37.8m to stop. Whereas if you are on new tyres with 8mm tread you’ll stop in 25.9m. That’s a difference of 12 metres and could result in totally avoidable accidents.

NB: FOXY recommends changing your tyres at 3mm, not waiting until the 1.6mm legal limit. Waiting until your tyres are nearly illegal before replacing them is like fuelling your car when it’s nearly empty, with all the stress this entails. Best to fill the tank and replace car tyres before you need to do either in a hurry…


Windscreens should be clean and wipers should work properly with the jets positioned correctly ie aimed at the screen. It makes sense to clean the windscreen regularly, inside and out, making any necessary wiper adjustments or replacements before they fail to do their job properly.

Screen wash

A screen wash additive will help keep your windscreen clean. New varieties claim to repel rain as well. When AutoExpress tested these recently they came up with their top three choices here.

Wipers and headlights

A good rule of thumb is that if you need windscreen wipers, then you probably need your headlights as well. Automatic light settings will not always activate in bad weather conditions, so it is up to you to make a sensible decision as to whether these need to be turned on.


If the water is standing in puddles on the road surface, your car is at risk of aqua-planing. Aqua-planing is where a wedge of water forms in front of the tyre and lifts it up off the road surface. This is caused by the tread not being able to displace the amount of water present. To recover from aqua-planing, ease gently off your accelerator, have a firm grip of the steering wheel and be sure not to make any sudden steering actions. The car will eventually regain its grip as the water clears.


First, ask yourself – can you take another route? If not, then you need to identify how deep the flood is. If the standing water is more than six inches deep, don’t drive through it. If you are familiar with the road, you may be able to judge the flood level in relation to the kerb.

If heavy rain was not the cause of the flood, then what was? And what impact on the road does it have? For example, if it is a burst water main, the standing water may look like a normal flood but the road surface beneath the water may be completely broken up. If you are unsure how the flood has formed, then avoid it altogether.

Are there other vehicles similar to yours that are safely driving through? From this, make a judgement call as to whether it is safe to travel through or not.

NB: If the water is fast flowing, do not attempt to drive through it, as there is a real danger of your car being swept off the road.

Drive slowly through floods

If you have taken everything into consideration and decide to drive through the flood, be sure to do so slowly.

The best approach is to press lightly on your clutch and add gentle pressure on your accelerator to increase your engine revs. Do so without increasing your speed, in a similar way to how you would undertake a hill start. This will prevent water from entering your exhaust. If you are in an automatic car, accelerate slightly but control the speed with your brakes. When you have passed the flood, test your brakes to make sure they are dry and working properly.

If you are in the slightest doubt, then turn around and don’t go through the flood. Often modern saloon cars have the air intake in the wheel arch, which may be below the water level.

If your engine should take in water, it will immediately hydro lock and the engine will stop.

Driving Without Due Care And Attention

Remember to stay alert when driving through heavy rain and always avoid splashing pedestrians.

If this is done accidentally- even when just causing splashes when driving through puddles at the side of the road – you could receive a fixed penalty and three points on your license for driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users.

If done deliberately, it could be a public order offence, a court appearance and a significant fine.

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