It is undoubtable that climate change is having a significant impact on the weather in the UK and worldwide. In the UK the 10 warmest days on record have all occurred in the last 20 years. Since 1998 the UK has also seen 60% of the wettest years on record. According to the Met Office, these extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent in the UK, we are expected to see hotter summers and wetter winters. In this article we take a look at the impact of extreme weather on drivers, and tips to ensure your fleet is prepared.
Wet conditions and driver considerations
There are fewer driver considerations in wet weather compared to extreme heat. The main considerations are tiredness and appropriate clothing and footwear. Wet weather requires drivers to pay more attention to driving. Making sure drivers are not tired and can take regular breaks will help to avoid any issues. Many van or delivery drivers are required to frequently get out in and out of the vehicle, this can cause the cab to become wet and slippery. Drivers should be provided with appropriate footwear and clothing to reduce any risk. It is also worth providing each van with a kit they can use to dry up any excess water to avoid potential accidents.
A high level of rainfall or water on the road surface can make road conditions very dangerous for drivers. Visibility when driving in the rain can be severely decreased, not only from oncoming rain, but from vehicle spray. Aquaplaning can also occur in wet conditions; this is when a layer of water forms between the vehicle tyres and the road surface. This can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle, as it stops responding to the steering. The key advice if this does happen is to avoid panicking and keep calm. The other important consideration during wet weather is flooded roads. There are misconceptions around the amount of flood water a vehicle can safely drive through without getting into trouble. The AA advises not to drive through flood water if it is deeper than 10 cm or moving.
Drivers need to take precautions when driving in wet weather, we recommend following these tips:
- Reduce speed in wet conditions
- Break earlier and softer, braking distances will be reduced in wet conditions
- Be prepared for reduced visibility and spray from other vehicles
- Pull over if visibility becomes too poor
- Be prepared to face aquaplaning, remain calm, ease off the acceleration, keep the steering steady and straight. Begin to brake gently once you feel you have regained control
- Avoid all flood water where possible and never drive through flood water over 10 cm or any moving water
Vehicles need to be prepared for wet weather, the main ways you can prepare vehicles is to maintain the following vehicle aspects:
- Make sure the windscreen wipers are in good condition,
- Ensure the brakes are working correctly
- Maintain headlights for visibility
- Check tyre pressure and tread grip are at the correct levels
Although summer feels like a long time away it is worth considering the changes that can be made now to prepare for potential upcoming heatwaves. Hotter summers result in the increase of aircon usage, drivers will need to use aircon in order to cool down and keep their body at a temperature that is safe for driving. If drivers do not have access to air-conditioning in their vehicle, then they are at risk of suffering from heat exhaustion. Cars and vans can heat up very quickly meaning heat exhaustion is a real possibility. Accidents are more likely to happen when a driver is tired and suffering from heat exhaustion. Another potential issue is sunburn, having the window open can result in drivers with a burnt arm.
Here are some tips to help drivers prepare for extreme hot weather and avoid a burnt arm or heat exhaustion:
- Advise drivers to wear sun cream if they are planning on keeping the window open or spending time outside.
- Encourage drivers to carry a drink and stay hydrated.
- Recommend drivers have regular breaks from continuous driving at least 15 minutes every 2 hours during very hot days.
- Purchase vehicles with air conditioning and keep the air conditioning serviced and functioning correctly.
During hot weather conditions the road can become dangerous, in hot weather the road surface becomes very hot and softens. If rain follows a dry spell this can result in a very slippery road surface. Sun glare can also be a common issue in the hot sunny weather, glare can completely block drivers’ view of the road and other traffic.
Here are some tips to help drivers combat hot road conditions:
- Keep sunglasses on hand in the vehicle to minimise any glare
- Make sure windscreens are kept clean to reduce glare
- Advise drivers to pull over if the glare becomes too much and hinders visibility
- Be careful when roads are slippery, take caution with speed and turning to keep full control over the vehicle
- Make sure tyre pressure and tread depth are at the correct levels at all times, this will help if the roads are slippery.
When the weather gets hot it can take its toll on vehicles, high temperatures can impact both engines and tyres. It is always recommended to do several vehicle checks on a regular basis, increasing these checks in any adverse weather conditions.
Recommended vehicle checks include:
- Tyre pressure
- Tread depth
- Any tyre damages
- Vehicle coolant levels
- Windscreen wash levels
- Transmission fluid, brake fluid and power steering fluid