High speeds a major cause of accidents
Motorists’ refusal to adapt their driving to match the weather conditions is causing thousands of rain-related accidents, resulting in multiple casualties and fatalities. The extent of the problem has been exposed by a study involving two pieces of research – a survey examining the driving behaviour of over 2,000 motorists, plus analysis of live traffic in a variety of weather conditions.
The survey questioned motorists on how they would usually react to a variety of adverse weather conditions – and the responses make for alarming reading. Faced with wet roads, 31% of people said they would not slow down despite the fact that braking distances more than doubles in wet conditions. 15% of people stated that they didn’t generally reduce their speed in heavy rain, and 14% said they didn’t slow down even when roads became icy. And while the cavalier attitude of many of these motorists seems hard to believe, their claims are backed up by the real-life evidence.
Live traffic analysis
The second part of the research analysed the speed of 27,000 vehicles on a two-mile stretch of A-road in diverse weather conditions. Records showed that during rain, drivers reduced their speed by just 0.7% - which equates to a speed reduction of just 0.35mph when travelling at 50mph. Almost half the cars were driving faster than the speed limit, and 7% were travelling at more than 80mph in the rain or on wet roads. Yet the most startling of all the findings was that drivers of Heavy Goods Vehicles actually increased their average speed by 1.4% when it was raining.
The dangers of wet weather driving
Wet roads reduce your tyres’ grip on the tarmac, which means it takes far longer to stop, plus steering becomes less responsive. When there’s so much water on the road that it begins to form pools, aquaplaning becomes a real risk – this occurs when your tyres are unable to clear all the water from their path as they roll through a puddle, so a thin film of water separates your tyres from the road. This can result in complete loss of traction, which means you have no control over braking or steering. If your steering becomes light, ease off the accelerator and hold the steering wheel straight. When you feel the car come back under your control, brake gently and slow to a safe speed.
When driving on wet roads, it’s important to reduce your speed to match the conditions. Stopping distances can double in the wet, which means at 30mph it could take you 150 feet (46m) to come to a halt. And if you’re driving along a motorway at 70mph and the traffic suddenly stops, it’s going to take you around 630 feet (192m) to pull up safely. So always be aware of the road conditions, and alter both your speed and your braking distance accordingly – don’t drive too close to the car in front!