Most drivers are well aware of the hazards posed by inclement weather such as heavy rain, snow and ice. But what about high winds? Gusts of even 30 to 40 mph can make driving significantly more dangerous. As well as potentially blowing your car off course, these gusts could blow debris into the road, such as tree limbs or fallen cargo.
Strong wind can occur just about anywhere, making all of us vulnerable at some point to driving in these challenging conditions. To help you stay as safe as possible at all times, take note of this expert advice for driving in windy weather.
Tips for driving safely in strong winds
1. Pack well
It’s a good idea to have an emergency kit in your car at all times, but especially when there’s a chance severe weather could disrupt your journey. We recommend keeping a first aid kit, warm clothes, drinking water, and a fully charged mobile phone or power bank in the boot of your car. When there are high winds in the forecast, avoid using roof boxes that increase the car’s susceptibility to crosswinds.
2. Watch the weather report
Stay up to date with the latest weather warnings and road closures. If your local news advises you not to drive, don’t risk it. If you have a choice of whether or not to drive when wind advisories are issued, it is safer to delay your journey.
3. Plan your journey
Research the route before you leave to find out if there is a route less exposed to the weather. Choose the sheltered route when there are high winds. Areas for concern include exposed bridges, exposed overpasses, tunnels and mountainous regions that can act as funnels for wind.
4. Be prepared
Be aware that with high winds often comes rain and reduced visibility. As such, you should make sure that your car’s windscreen wipers, lights and tyres are up for the task. Your wipers should clear the windscreen effectively, and the tyres should be in good condition and inflated to the correct pressure. All interior and exterior lights should be in good working order and you should know when to use your car lights.
5. Slow down
Not only do you have less control of a vehicle the faster it is moving, but you also have less time to react. Sudden gusts of wind can cause problems that no one will be able to predict, and if you are driving slower, you will have a better chance of handling them. If you’re driving a high-sided vehicle or towing a trailer or caravan, it’s best to reduce your speed significantly and avoid high-speed roads like motorways.
6. Look ahead
Constantly scan the road ahead and look for potential hazards like debris in the road. For example, twigs or small branches in the road could indicate that there’s a large tree or branch in the way around the corner. Also look out for low-hanging branches, especially at night when they might not be picked up by your headlights.
7. Maintain a firm grip
Hold the steering will firmly with both hands to maintain constant control of the vehicle. Strong winds are not constant, and sudden gusts can catch you off guard and cause you to jerk the wheel.
8. Keep your distance
Leave extra distance between you and the vehicle in front to allow more time to react if wind moves vehicles or debris in your path.
9. Leave more room while overtaking
Be careful when overtaking vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, giving them plenty of room in case the wind blows them into your lane. Leave extra space when overtaking lorries and high-sided vehicles like caravans which may have a harder time maintaining control. Be aware that vehicles may be forced to veer or suddenly change lanes as a result of a sudden gust of wind.
10. Steer in the opposite direction in side winds
Side winds can make your vehicle skid laterally. If these winds are strong enough, they can make you feel like you are fighting with your car to stay on the road. In side winds, steer gently and slowly in the opposite direction – and avoid turning the wheel suddenly.
11. Adjust to head or tail winds
Head or tail winds are much easier to drive in, as they are only likely to alter your speed slightly. You may find yourself needing to adjust your acceleration slightly to compensate.
12. Pull over if necessary
If the conditions get too hard to cope with and you get the chance to safely pull over, do so. If it is safe and legal, call a family member or friend to let them know where you have stopped.
13. Choose a safe parking spot
Make sure you park your car in a safe place. In windy weather, avoid parking under trees, near buildings, telephone lines or other structures that could represent a falling-danger in severe winds.