Driving in the Rain – Visibility

driving in the rainDriving in the rain is something that British drivers have to do frequently. With the practise we get you would think we would all become naturally skilled at handling a car in wet conditions; yet many people still fail to make allowances to cope with a change in the weather.

Wipers and Lights

When rain begins to fall, it should go without saying that you need to use windscreen wipers. But what sort of condition are yours in and when did you last check? The material used for your wipers will break down over time; with soft rubber becoming hard, cracks appearing and bits breaking off. This not only means that they won’t clean the window properly but they may even scratch the glass. Replace them every 6-12 months and check for wear and tear on a regular basis.

You may sometimes find that your wipers shudder and squeak when they’re in use. Ease this problem by cleaning them with white spirit or vinegar, but it may be time to replace them.

When wipers are in constant use, you’re almost certain to also require headlights. Many people run on sidelights alone but these may not be sufficiently visible. Use dipped headlights whether in light rain or a thunderstorm to make sure that you’re clearly visible to others.

Fog Lights

Rear fog lights can sometimes be seen blazing away in wet conditions. Whether this is because the driver has confused the switch with something else; or they think that they need them is anyone’s guess They should not generally be used in rain. The brightness of rear fog lights will dazzle other drivers. But they may also mean that your brake lights go unnoticed. They only exception to this advice would be to consider using them on high speed roads such as a motorway. When the rain is heavy with lots of surface spray you should think about using them. But ONLY if visibility is seriously reduced to less than 100m (the approximate length of a football pitch).


Driving in the rain will reduce visibility for the driver in several ways. The precipitation itself forms a natural curtain as it falls, the heavier the rain the worse this will obviously be. Droplets of water which form on the glass can make it very difficult to see. Wipers will of course take away most of this problem but only in the areas where they sweep. You must make allowances for the parts of the screen where the blades can’t reach. These untouched parts effectively widen the masking done by the door pillars; you must be careful to ensure that they don’t hide the approach of another vehicle, motorcyclist or cyclist.

The side windows present another problem altogether. If you have difficulty seeing through them; particularly when waiting to emerge from a junction, open them slightly to give yourself a clear view rather than take an unnecessary risk.


Condensation will also limit your view from the driving seat. Modern cars have heating and ventilation systems that should cope easily with this, so make sure you make full use of blowers and demisters to keep the glass as clear as possible. Otherwise open a window!

One aspect of reduced visibility you can do little about is exterior mirrors. Droplets of water on these can make it difficult to see and you must exercise care when planning a change in direction.

Modern technology has produced a liquid that you can apply to glass surfaces to give a kind of non-stick coating which helps to repel water; I’ve used these and found the treatment can be quite effective when driving in the rain, especially at higher speeds where the water just runs off. The only drawback is that you need to reapply the treatment regular intervals to remain effective. Nevertheless, it’s still a purchase worth considering.

This is an excerpt from Glovebox Guides – Driving at Night & in Bad Weather >>>


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