Across the UK, wildfires are becoming an increasingly common hazard, one that few of us will be used to. Here are some tips for driving your rental vehicle through smoke.
A quick check of AA Roadwatch tells us there are currently three wildfires burning merrily across England and Wales, one on the Pennines, one in Snowdonia and one in Dartmoor. And, at time of writing, it’s not even summer.
Wildfires are a growing hazard for drivers and for most of us driving through thick clouds of smoke is not a usual experience. But as the likelihood increases that you’ll need to steer your hire car or van close to a wildfire site, here’s our guide to staying safe.
Before you set off
If you know there’s a risk of wildfires on your route, consider whether you really need to make the journey at all. If you do, make sure your phone is charged, that you have plenty of fuel in the car, and that you’re carrying an emergency kit.
On the road
If you encounter wildfire smoke on the road:
- Close the windows and the vents: switch your air system to recycle so you’re not sucking in smoky air from your surroundings. Visibility may not be great, but at least you’ll be able to breathe.
- Slow down: The worse the visibility gets, the slower you need to drive. If you can’t see the cars in front, proceed very cautiously.
- Switch on fog lights: Switch on your headlights (if they don’t come on automatically). If the smoke is very thick, use your fog lights.
- Don’t use your hazards: The standard rule that you shouldn’t drive with hazards on doesn’t change because of a wildfire. In fact, it’s particularly important that you keep your lease van or car’s hazards off in smoky conditions, as in the half-light it may look to oncoming vehicles that you are stationary.
- Stay on the road: Hot exhaust pipes and dry grass don’t mix, so stay on the tarmac and avoid making the situation worse.