After weeks of unbroken sunshine, the rain came back with a bang today – not the sort of thing anyone wants to wake up to on a Monday morning, particularly after a weekend of warm sunshine – so if you have to travel to work, and can’t avoid the morning commute, there are a few things you need to do to stay safe on the roads in wet weather and worse.
How to commute in bad weather
How to commute in the rain
To stay safe on the roads when the rain starts to fall, you should:
- Use your headlights – make sue other drivers can see you clearly by driving with dipped headlights on. Don’t put your fog lights on though as these can be mistaken for brake lights or even dazzle the driver behind.
- Slow down – stopping distances increase when the roads are wet and driving through standing water can cause your tyres to lose contact with the road and the car to aquaplane. If this happens, take your foot off the accelerator to slow down as your brakes and steering wheel will be useless.
- Keep your distance –stay back from the vehicle in front, not only because stopping distances are increased, but so you can keep an eye out for any hazards further up the road.
- Avoid deep water – driving through deep water can cause all sorts of expensive damage, so if you don’t know how deep standing water is, avoid driving through it. If you want to work out how deep it is, see where the level is compared to kerbs, walls or other landmarks.
- Don’t stop – if you decide to drive through standing water try not to stop but do drive slowly so your car doesn’t make waves. Once through, test your brakes. And avoid fast flowing water as your car can quickly be swept away.
And remember, the minimum legal tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm (the same as the width of the rim on a 20p piece) so if your tyres are anywhere near this level you should consider changing them for winter.
How to commute in low-lying sun
Rain isn’t the only problem though, as low-lying winter sun can be blinding. Here’s how to minimise dazzle and some tips to stay safe if visibility drops to almost zero.
- Wash your windows – dirt and grime on windows can magnify the glare of the low sun, he best way to help minimise this is to keep your windows clean on both the inside and out. It’s also a good idea to keep your wiper blades clean.
- Block out the sun – if you are dazzled, pull down the sun visor and put in some good quality sunglasses.
- Slow down – if you’re still dazzled, slow down and try to keep a safe distance from the vehicles around you – don’t slam on the brakes though as drivers behind will also be dazzled and may not have time to react.
How to commute in snow
If it’s snowing, make sure you check the latest travel news before you set off as there will undoubtedly be disruption and cancelled services on rail, road, sea and air.
If you have to drive in snow, always make sure you:
- Wear shoes with grip – wear comfortable, dry shoes for driving to minimise the risk of your foot to slip.
- Drive slowly – pull away in second gear, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin. Using higher gears can reduce revs and improve traction.
- Driving uphill – leave plenty of room or wait until it’s clear so you don’t have to stop part way up. Keep a constant speed and try to avoid having to change gear on the hill.
- Driving downhill – slow down before the hill, use a low gear and try to avoid braking. Leave as much room as you can to the car in front.
- Brake gently – If you have to use your brakes, apply them gently.
- If you do get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels. Put a sack or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip.
And if you’re cycling, make sure you wrap up warm and take extra care on the roads, always being aware that cars could lose control at any moment. You should also:
- Avoid being too tense – try to relax your hands and arms, keep your weight back and try to steer with your hips instead of your hands, using your whole mass to carefully control any directional changes.
- Brake gently – harsh braking will cause you to lose control, skid, and maybe come off completely. So keep an eye on the road ahead and brake gently.
- Avoid the gutter – Snow and ice is far more likely to gather in the gutter, making it treacherous for cyclists, so give the kerb as wide a berth as possible.
What is a polar vortex?
Back in February, the cold snap brought on by the ‘Beast from the East’ – a polar vortex* brought arctic conditions and caused travel chaos across the UK, particularly in Scotland which was issued its first ever red weather warning, meaning there was a serious risk to life.
A polar vortex is a dense mass of cold air that sits above both the north and south poles, and is controlled by a large pocket of low pressure, which rotates in an anti-clockwise direction at the North Pole and clockwise at the South Pole.
The strength of a polar vortex varies from year to year. When the vortex is strong, the cold air is concentrated over the Arctic or Antarctic area, but when it is weak – as it is now – it can split into two or more freezing vortices. The phenomenon associated with wintry weather is known as a Sudden Stratospheric Warming.
Replace the commute with a conference call
Of course, all of these hazards can be avoided by working from home – and even if you’ve got a meeting, you can easily join in via teleconference. Go to ConferenceCall.co.uk to find out how to set up a conference call quickly and easily.