Storm Ophelia left a path of destruction in her wake after lashing the British Isles. Driving conditions were extremely hazardous as motorists were forced to contend with winds up to 80mph. And while we may not experience stormy conditions like that for a while, it’s important to know how to drive safely when the wind whips up.
Here are a few tips on how to stay safe behind the wheel when it’s blowing a gale out there.
Plan your journey in advance
If storm force winds are forecast then, if possible, try and find a route with less exposure to the weather. Also choose a route that is sheltered from the elements and inform people of your plans in case you get stuck, delayed or your mobile runs out of battery.
The boy scouts knew what they were talking about when they told us to be prepared! There’s nothing worse than breaking down or being stuck in traffic without some essential equipment. Always have some warm clothes with you, some food and water and try to ensure you have a fully charged mobile too for emergencies.
Be tuned on
Keep your traffic alerts on and listen to local news bulletins for road closures and delays. It’s bad enough driving in the elements without being stuck in a queue that could have been avoided.
Slow it down
Windy conditions can play havoc with drivers. A sudden gust of wind can easily get under a vehicle and significantly affect its handling and braking. Taking your foot off the accelerator will give you more time to anticipate these conditions and reduce the impact they have on your driving.
Look out for other drivers
High-sided vehicles are particularly vulnerable to strong winds so be cautious, especially when vehicles are overtaking. Any sudden gust could cause you to swerve your vehicle so be mindful of your other road users. Also be wary when you approach open areas as the elements will be even more evident and give cyclists, motorcyclists, buses and lorries more room than usual.
Stay in control
Remain in control of your vehicle at all times. Strong winds are inconsistent and can easily catch you off guard so keep a firm grip on the steering wheel. However, don’t hold on like you’re riding a rollercoaster at a funfair. The key is to be firm but loose so you can easily respond to any sudden movement.
Keep an eye out
Look out for what is happening around you and how other vehicles are responding to the conditions. Spotting where and when other vehicles appear to be blown off course will give you a pre-warning of the conditions.
Keep your distance
Only a fool breaks the two-second rule, but in hazardous driving conditions you should look at increasing that to three seconds. That extra second will give you more time to respond to incidents.
Ensure that you park your vehicle in a safe place. Don’t park under trees, near buildings, phone lines or other structures that could come down with the wind.