How to drive in high winds

Updated Tuesday, November 17, 2015 Storm Barney is due to hit later today, with more high winds and heavy rain due to batter the UK - but bad weather can strike at any time and if you’re unfortunate enough to be on the road when high winds hit, it can prove a nerve-wracking driving experience.
Last year saw the UK have the wettest winter on record, with separate records for England and Wales showing the heaviest rainfall since they were started in 1766, and out homes and vehicles took a right battering. Figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) show a total of 20,600 claims were made last winter for flood and storm-damaged vehicles – a stark reminder of how vital it is to be wary of driving in high wind and bad weather.

Beware sudden gusts

Heavy storms or sudden gusts of wind that affect the safety of your driving can slam into you at any time. They can be particularly treacherous on open roads and bridges – and it don’t think it’s just high-sided vehicles such as lorries that are at risk. What if you’re overtaking or just behind one when it’s blown over? And if you’re in a car towing a caravan or other vehicle, the wind will cause you all manner of strife. Regardless of your mode of transport, if the wind is strong enough it could nudge you off the road or into oncoming traffic, or other vehicles could be pushed into your path. This risks a serious accident, so keep your distance from vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians around you in poor conditions. In bad weather it is also much more likely for branches or rubbish to be in the road causing driving problems and, potentially, accidents. So drive more slowly than usual, as driving at high speed into something that’s blown onto the road could mean an accident or even fatality. In the event of a breakdown in bad weather, beware of other vehicles around you being blown off course and into you. If possible, walk away from your vehicle so you’re not putting yourself at risk of this situation, and wait to be rescued. Remember, your life-expectancy on the hard shoulder of a motorway is counted in minutes, so get well away from vehicles, especially if there’s a risk of other drivers losing control in the inclement conditions.

How to prevent an accident

If you can, simply just avoid getting behind the wheel if you know bad weather and high wind is on the way – that’s the safest option. Before heading off on a journey, at least check the weather bulletins so that you know what to expect. However, if you absolutely must drive in hazardous conditions, there are certain precautions you can take to avoid an accident, such as equipping yourself with an emergency kit, including a torch (with spare batteries), charged mobile phone and additional clothing to keep you warm. Snacks are also a good idea – although it might be a good idea to keep chocolate bars and biscuits in the boot rather than the glove box to eliminate temptation when you’re driving in fair weather! Most importantly, adjust your speed and general driving behaviour to suit the conditions. Use your headlights when necessary and think about changing your route to avoid danger spots, such as bridges. Tune into traffic reports on the radio to keep in touch with possible congestion and delays, as well as weather bulletins.

Making a claim for damage

While the weather will always be unpredictable, your car insurance policy should provide certainty and peace of mind that you’ll be covered if you are subject to a sudden storm while driving. There are many ways that gales can cause damage to a vehicle, even if not directly. For example, if a tree is blown over onto your car your insurance policy will cover you. Similarly, if a slate fell off a roof, say, and dented your car as a result of strong winds, turn to your insurance policy provider. If liability for the incident is disputed – that means, if someone else is to blame – your insurer should be on hand to fight your corner with that person’s insurer.

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