As Autumn takes hold of the country and we’re fast forwarding towards winter, make sure you’re ready and prepared to drive when the winds pick up. We thought we would give you a helping hand and put together a guide on how to drive safelty in strong winds.
Observations from behind the wheel are key. Driving in high winds is always a risk, just like driving in snow or heavy rain. But unlike these two latter conditions, you can’t see wind, making it more difficult to predict changes and know what to do.
It’s important to be as vigilant as possible. Look at the vegetation on the side of the road to see which way it is blowing and how far it is bending – this can give you a good idea of the direction and strength of the breeze.
Also keep an eye out for exposed sections of road. Many motorways and A-roads are protected by deep cuttings and rows of trees – this means as you emerge from these lines of vegetation your car could be suddenly blown off course by a strong gust. Be mindful of this when crossing long, exposed bridges, too.
ADJUST YOUR DRIVING STYLE
Spot these areas and reduce your speed. The slower you are going, the more time you will have to react to an event – whether that’s unfolding in front of you, or a situation that involves just you and your car.
Give yourself a larger gap to the car in front, too, as this will again give you more time to react.
Don’t try to predict what the wind will do. If it’s gusting strongly, it’s almost impossible to do so anyway and will only see you swerving across the road looking like a mad person. It’ll put you at greater risk of crashing and affect the safety of other road users, too.
It’s important to make sure you can control your car as well as possible, as always. That means a comfortable driving position where you’re not reaching for the wheel and stretching for the pedals, but by the same token aren’t hunched over the top of them.
Many motorists slip into bad habits, and although it sounds simple, make sure you place your hands in the ‘quarter-to-three’ position on the steering wheel. This will give you maximum possible control.
DRIVING IN SIDE WINDS
Side winds are by far the most dangerous type of winds to drive in. Gusts blow perpendicular to your car, with the relatively slabby sides of your vehicle acting as a sail.
This will blow you off course and into another lane if the wind is strong enough, so here’s what to do.
If the side wind means you start to deviate, gently turn the steering the opposite way to bring you back on your intended trajectory. Be mindful that a gusting breeze can fall at any point, and if it does, you will effectively be steering the ‘other’ way now.
Again, gently turn the wheel back towards the straight ahead to bring you in line. Whatever inputs you make, ensure they’re smooth and gentle, as any fast, sharp or sudden movements will further unstable the car while it’s already being blown around.
DRIVING IN HEAD AND TAIL WINDS
Head and tail winds are much easier to deal with. They blow either towards you or away from you but always in the same plane, meaning the car shouldn’t wobble from side to side.
If you are driving in a head wind, you may find you have to press the accelerator a bit harder to maintain a constant speed. This is because the breeze is counteracting the force of the engine turning the wheels, making it work that little bit harder.
By contrast, if you are driving with a tail wind, you may find you don’t have to use quite as much throttle to maintain the same speed, as the breeze is helping push you along.
Lastly, make sure that you have carried out our Autumn Car Checks to make sure your vehicle is in tip top condition for driving in the worse weather!