Drivers urged to take extra care in high winds and heavy rain

14th February 2020

Highways England is advising drivers to take care and be prepared as Storm Dennis brings very strong winds and heavy rain across large parts of the England this weekend.

Gusts of 40-50mph will be widespread across Highways England’s road network with some areas experiencing up to 60-70mph around coasts and routes in the south and west. Heavy and prolonged rainfall could occur, especially across parts of the south, south-west, north and north-west.


Motorists, particularly those driving high-sided HGVs, caravans and motorcycles, are advised to check the weather and driving conditions before setting out on journeys and pay particular attention to exposed locations such as coastal and high lying areas and bridges which could be affected by the high winds.

Highways England’s Head of Road Safety, Richard Leonard, said:

“We’re encouraging drivers to check the latest weather and travel conditions before setting off on journeys and consider if their journey is necessary and can be delayed until conditions improve. If you do intend to travel, then plan your journey and take extra care, allowing more time for your journey.

“In heavy rain, drivers should keep well back from the vehicle in front, gradually ease off the accelerator if the steering becomes unresponsive, and slow down if the rain and spray from vehicles makes it difficult to see and be seen.

“In high winds, there’s a particular risk to lorries, caravans and motorbikes so we’d advise drivers of these vehicles to slow down.

“Drivers of other vehicles should be aware of sudden gusts of wind which can affect handling and braking, and give high-sided vehicles, caravans, and motorbikes plenty of space. In the event of persistent high winds we may need to close bridges to traffic for a period, so please be alert for warnings of closures and follow signed diversion routes.”


Unladen curtain-sided vehicles are particularly vulnerable to windy conditions on high ground and bridges, such as the M48 Severn Crossing, M2 Medway Bridge, QEII, Orwell Bridge, Thelwell Viaduct, Ouse Bridge.


Richard Leonard added: “Curtains on empty high-sided vehicles can act as sails when closed, and when high winds arise, we advise HGV drivers to open their curtain-sided vehicles if they are empty.”


A Freight Transport Association advisory states that “When driving an empty curtain-sided vehicle, tie both curtain sides at one end of the vehicle to reduce the effect of side winds”.

In wet weather drivers should – take the following advice:

Slow down if the rain and spray from vehicles is making it difficult to see and be seen and remember that stopping distances will be at least double in wet weather, because your tyres will have less grip on the road.

Keep well back from the vehicle in front as this will increase your ability to see and plan ahead

Ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually if the steering becomes unresponsive as it probably means that water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road

If roads are flooded, find another route –

Road users are being advised to follow messages on any overhead signs and listen to radio updates. Further information can be found by visiting following @highwaysnwest @highwaysneast @highwaysyorks @highwaysmids, @highwayseast, @highwaysswest, @highwaysseast on Twitter or calling the Highways England Information Line on ‪0300 123 5000‬.