Driving in the Rain? Follow 5 Expert Tips to Stay Safe and Avoid Fines

With the UK usually experiencing its highest levels of rainfall from October through January, it’s especially vital for drivers to be well-prepared and knowledgeable about the challenges that wet weather poses on the roads.

Driving in rain, especially in heavy downpours, demands a heightened level of caution, awareness, and adaptability. To help drivers stay safe in these conditions, the AA has shared expert advice on how to safely navigate wet weather in your vehicle.

Expert shares five top tips for driving in the rain:

1. Turn your headlights on

Rule 113 of the highway code states that drivers must use appropriate headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, which generally means when you cannot see for more than 100 metres.

Heavy rain can greatly reduce your ability to see when driving, so always turn your headlights on if the rain is severe. Also, if your car has automatic headlights, don’t be too reliant on them. Car sensors don’t always accurately detect visibility levels and may also have a delayed reaction to changing light conditions. Failing to use the appropriate lights in this situation could earn you a £50 fine.

2. Leave twice as much space between you and the car in front

Rain significantly reduces the traction between your tyres and the road surface, increasing the distance it takes for your vehicle to come to a complete stop. To account for this reduced stopping distance, it’s crucial to maintain a safe following distance behind the car in front of you.

By leaving at least twice as much space as you would in dry conditions, you give yourself more time to react to sudden stops or emergencies.

3. Use fog lights, but switch them off when visibility improves, or you may face a £50 fine 

Fog lights can be helpful when driving in heavy rain, as they illuminate the road closer to your vehicle, making it easier to see your immediate surroundings. However, it’s essential to use fog lights only when necessary and to turn them off when visibility improves. Using fog lights unnecessarily can blind other drivers and reduce their ability to see the road ahead clearly.

Rule 236 of the highway code states that you must switch off fog lights when visibility improves, and failing to do so could result in a fine of up to £50.

4. If you break down in heavy rain, don’t prop the bonnet open while you wait

If your vehicle experiences a breakdown in heavy rain, propping the bonnet open exposes your engine to rain, potentially resulting in electrical and engine-related problems.

If the breakdown assistance agent instructs you to open the bonnet, it is recommended to mention that rainwater might affect sensitive components within the engine bay, leading to potential electrical issues. Therefore, it would be more beneficial to keep it closed.

If your vehicle breaks down on a motorway, it is generally safer to exit the car, even if it’s raining. For safety, make sure your hazards and side lights are on. Exit carefully, using the doors on the opposite side of the traffic, only if it is safe to do so. It is advisable to wait away from your vehicle, preferably behind a barrier. In case it is unsafe to leave your vehicle, make sure to wear your seatbelt at all times.

5. Drive slowly and steadily to avoid aquaplaning 

Aquaplaning occurs when a layer of water builds up between your tyres and the road surface, causing a loss of traction and control. It usually happens when you are driving too fast for the road conditions. To avoid aquaplaning, it’s crucial to drive at a reduced speed during rainy weather and avoid sudden movements such as rapid braking or sharp steering inputs. Driving at a steady pace helps your tyres maintain contact with the road, ensuring better control of your vehicle.

If you do start to aquaplane at any point, try to remain calm. Slamming the brakes or swerving in a panic could cause you to skid and lose control of your vehicle. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator and allow the car to gradually slow down and reconnect with the tarmac.

Nick Powell, AA patrol of the year, says, “By maintaining a heightened sense of responsibility and awareness when driving in the rain, you not only protect yourself but also contribute to safer roads for all. Rainy conditions introduce a host of challenges, including reduced visibility, decreased traction, and longer stopping distances. It’s essential to recognise that these adverse conditions affect everyone on the road, not just you as a driver.

“Pedestrians and cyclists are particularly vulnerable during wet weather, as they have limited protection from the elements. Driving through puddles at high speeds, for example, can cause a splash that drenches pedestrians and may even cause them to slip or fall. This kind of careless driving is dangerous and can even earn you a fine of £100.

“By staying aware of your surroundings and following these tips to drive safely in rainy conditions, you can greatly reduce the risk of crashes and collisions and help keep the roads safe for everyone.”