March is one of the worst months for weather in the UK and it’s not that it’s especially bad or good at this time of year, it’s that you just don’t know what to expect. You can quite happily leave your campsite in beautiful sunshine and within fifteen minutes you can’t see through the fog and the mist. This is especially true in coastal areas of the UK and Cornwall is well known for its changeable conditions.
Driving in variable weather really is a skill and it’s not to be underestimated. You need to make conscious and specific changes to your driving style based upon what’s going on outside and that’s not always easy, especially if you’re not an experienced driver. Whatever you do, always make sure you have a charged mobile and your motorhome insurance documentation handy. They are essential in an emergency.
If you’re expecting less than optimal driving conditions then the preparation starts before you even get in the vehicle. It’s too tempting to jump in and drive off, but you should ensure your driving position is comfortable and all of your mirrors are centred before moving away. This is especially important if you share the driving with someone.
You also need to make sure you can see out of the windscreen. This might sound completely obvious but the number of accidents caused by screens that have either not been properly de-iced, have fogged up with condensation or are dusty and dazzling is enormous. Keep the inside of your screen clean with glass cleaner and take some time to ensure you can see before moving off.
The most serious problem of variable weather driving is moving when you only have limited visibility. That could be because of fog or rain but equally because of a bright sunset or, worse, a combination of sunlight and standing water. The only sure-fire cure is to drop your speed, maximising your possible reaction time for anything untoward. You should also make sure you’re equipped with sunglasses.
In the fog, your lights are your biggest ally but also can be a distraction. Half-beam is usually the best tactic but do beware of other drivers. Motorhome lights are often set higher than car lights and so are known to dazzle even when low. You should also use your fog-lights and make sure any equipment you’re towing is linked up.
Falling rain, snow, sleet or hail is one of your worst enemies and only combatted by wipers at the right speed. Forget the noise or the fuel savings: have your wipers at the speed that keeps the screen clear. Cutting 10mph off your speed will really help with control and under no circumstances should you attempt to overtake dangerously: make sure you get there safely.
Sometimes rain just doesn’t hold up and, particularly on the motorway, your only option is to stop and wait for it to pass. This doesn’t have to mean waiting in a lay-by, why not reschedule a lunch stop of pop into a nearby town for a coffee. You might well be surprised at what you’ve been driving past!
It always helps to be informed with the weather and there are plenty of online services you can use such as the Highways Agency has a particularly good weather check site.
You can find all sorts of information online and, in particular, you can find specific bad weather warnings along your route. It’s impossible to forecast what will be going on 30 miles down the road from what it looks like out of your window at this time of year: there’s just too much going on to be sure. It’s also worth your while checking up on the traffic information before you leave. A good sat-nav will be able to do this for you but if you’re expecting variable weather conditions then taking the least congested routes can be beneficial.
If in doubt your best bet is to just stop: take no chances and no risks. However, if you’re well prepared, you’re able to drop your speed and you have a good set of windscreen wipers, driving in variable weather is a lot easier than you might expect.