As storm Doris approaches Britain, bringing snow and strong winds approaching 80mph, drivers face disruption and additional hazards on the roads. At the time of writing, the Met Office had issued an amber, weather warning for northern England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, which means people should prepare for the storm conditions, and a yellow warning for other parts of the UK.
This means there are likely to be 80mph gusts of winds, waves of up to 60ft impacting coastal areas, possible damage to trees and structures, interruption of power supplies and disruption to travel.
Such severe weather makes for challenging driving conditions, but short of staying at home, lighting a fire and pouring a cuppa, what practical steps can drivers take to stay safe when they need to get from A to B in strong winds?
Driving in strong winds: Do you have to drive?
It’s sensible that drivers ask themselves whether they really need to drive in potentially dangerous weather conditions. Avoiding travel in stormy weather is the safest – if not always the most practical – course of action.
Driving in strong winds: Plan your journey and check for disruption
You wouldn’t go outside in freezing cold weather without a warm coat, so why head into a storm without first checking for disruption? So do get online and check your route. During Storm Doris, main roads could be closed and travel from ports could be disrupted.
Driving in strong winds: Hold that door!
It sounds obvious but is easily forgotten: when opening a car’s door in strong winds, especially from the inside, have a firm grip of the door handle and be prepared for the wind to catch it. High winds can cause serious damage to a door’s hinges, which in turn can cause damage to your wallet. Also, try to avoid parking beneath trees or a building’s roof, as falling debris could damage your car or, worse, people.
Driving in strong winds: Get a grip – of the steering wheel
Some drivers find it more relaxing or feel they look cool to drive with one hand on the steering wheel. This is never a good idea, but especially silly when faced with gusts of wind up to 80mph. So grip the wheel firmly with both hands.
Driving in strong winds: Leave more room on the road
Your car, and other vehicles on the road, are going to get blown around by side winds, says Mark Lewis, the director of standards for the Institute of Advanced Motorists, a road safety charity dedicated to improving standards and safety on roads. So reduce speeds and increase the distance between you and other traffic to match the difficult driving conditions, especially when roads are wet. Also, be wary of high-sided vehicles, motorcyclists and cyclists, as they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the wind.
Driving in strong winds: Can you stop in the distance you can see ahead?
Trees, branches, bits of buildings, the occasional trampoline and localised flooding can all be lurking unseen around a corner. So drivers should slow down before a bend, says Mark Lewis, and ensure they can stop on their own side of the road in the distance they can see.
Driving in strong winds: Expect the unexpected
As drivers pass gaps between trees or buildings, or cross bridges, they should expect greater exposure to side winds, says the IAM. Concentrate and anticipate the effects of wind, and remember that when you switch from a windy section to a sheltered area, the sudden loss of winds can be just as unbalancing to a vehicle.
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