Driving in high winds: A guide to doing it safely

Driving in high winds: A guide to doing it safely

With a lot of the adverse weather we’ve been having in the last few years, it’s a good idea to be as prepared as you can be for driving through it.

In this blog we’ve outlined everything you need to know about driving in high winds.

How to drive safely in high winds

Before you travel:

  • Pack properly - It’s always a good idea to pack your car with some provisions before driving. This could include things like warm clothes, food, water, and making sure your phone is fully charged before you get going.
  • Plan your journey - Checking your route before you head out is worth it in high winds, as fallen trees and debris can cause road closures at a moment’s notice, and some bridges can also be closed in particularly harsh weather.
  • Check the weather - Keeping an ear out for local weather warnings before you travel can help to decide on whether your journey is worth it. Warnings start to be issued when winds reach 40 mph so, if winds are predicted to be 70 mph, it might be better to stay at home.
  • Check your vehicle - Checking your lights, windscreen wipers, and brakes are all working properly before you set off could save you from getting into trouble in high winds.

For more help on checking your vehicle before you travel, you can check out our blog ‘What pressure should my tyres be?

On your journey:

  • Keep a slow and steady speed - Maintaining a steady speed, below the speed limit, should allow you to have better control of the car and reduce  the need for any sudden braking or manoeuvres if there are sudden gusts.
  • Keep your distance - Keeping a safe distance from other drivers allows you to adapt quickly to any sudden movements or to avoid debris in the road. Motorcyclists and cyclists also tend to be more affected by driving in the wind, so be sure to give them a wide berth.
  • Watch out for high-profile and towing vehicles - Tall trucks, lorries, vans, buses, and cars pulling caravans can all be susceptible to high winds and sudden gusts. It’s best to keep your distance and avoid being alongside them for long on motorways.
  • Keep your hands on the steering wheel - Sudden gusts of wind can cause your steering to pull to one side. Keeping both hands on the steering wheel as much as possible will allow you to hold a firm grip and quickly better correct any sudden movements.
  • Take care when overtaking - When overtaking on motorways in high winds, it’s generally recommended not to stay alongside another vehicle for too long, in case they lose control. It’s best to avoid overtaking on single-lane roads entirely if possible.
  • Be aware of your surroundings - Try to keep an extra close eye on the road and other drivers in high winds, as hazards can appear suddenly. Using dipped headlights will allow you to see better in case high winds pick up any dust or debris.
  • Think about where you park - It’s a good idea to avoid parking under trees or telephone lines if you can help it. High winds can cause branches to fall and damage your car.
  • Watch for exposed parts of the road - Particularly exposed areas, such as bridges, are likely to have warning signs for high winds or side winds. Some sections of motorway might even have windsocks, to show you the speed and direction of the wind. Keep an eye out for these warnings and prepare yourself for gusts when driving through these risky areas.
  • Avoid towing - Pulling caravans and heavy loads can be risky in high winds, as they can move unexpectedly and pull your car off its course. Similarly, try to avoid using roof racks or roof boxes, as these can catch the wind and break, causing damage to your car.

For more help on driving in adverse weather conditions, you can check out our blog ‘Driving in the rain: 10 top tips’

How windy is too windy to drive?

The Met Office issues warnings at varying wind speeds to help you understand the potential dangers of driving in high winds. Wind speeds over 30 mph are generally considered to be dangerous wind speeds for drivers, and at 40 mph an amber warning would be issued. An amber warning, according to the Met Office, could mean:

  • Some roads and bridges are likely to close.
  • Some fallen trees and damage to buildings
  • Power cuts are likely
  • Large waves and beach material could be thrown onto coastal roads

Red warnings for wind come when winds are expected to regularly exceed 70 mph. These are rarely issued, as they are really meant for particularly violent storms. A red warning for wind means to expect:

  • Flying debris
  • Damage to buildings and homes, with roofs blown off and power lines brought down
  • Uprooted trees
  • Roads, bridges, and railway lines closed
  • Power cuts
  • Large waves and beach material being thrown onto coastal roads

For more help with driving in extreme weather conditions, check out our blog ‘What should you do when driving in snowy conditions: Do's and don'ts

Do I need wind deflectors?

If you are concerned about driving with your windows open in high winds, you might want to consider using wind deflectors. These are pieces of acrylic that fit into the seals above your doors and use aerodynamics to direct wind and rain over your windows. Wind deflectors are designed to allow you to have your windows open without being buffeted by winds and rain. Wind deflectors are unlikely to stop your vehicle being affected by very high winds, but they can help if you suddenly hit a gust while your windows are open.

A few final tips…

Here are the last few things to keep in mind when driving in high winds:

  • Try to keep to main roads if you can. Small roads are more likely to be blocked by fallen trees and debris, and tend to take longer to clear.
  • Be sure to check your journey for any bridges or tunnels that might have restrictions in high winds.
  • The Highway Code’s advice on driving in windy weather recommends that the main things to watch out for are high-profile vehicles and motorcyclists, so it’s best to keep your distance from both if you can.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.