Motorcyclists are particularly affected by strong winds. How should other drivers overtake them, and how can everyone drive safely in windy conditions?
Whether you’re driving a car or a motorbike, travelling in windy weather can be very hazardous. Side winds or crosswinds can hit you in sudden gusts that move your vehicle unexpectedly, especially if you’re in a small vehicle like a motorcycle, or one that’s high-sided like a lorry. Windy or stormy weather can also throw debris onto the road such as branches, car parts and general litter, which you could hit if you’re not paying full attention to what’s ahead of you.
Overtaking can become very dangerous in this sort of weather because vehicles can move suddenly due to a strong crosswind. Therefore, it’s recommended that you avoid overtaking if possible, but what should you do if overtaking is necessary? In this guide, we’ll discuss how you should go about overtaking vehicles that are more unpredictable in windy conditions (such as motorcycles and lorries), driving safely in this type of weather, and some specific tips for motorcyclists.
Overtaking a motorbike in strong winds
When overtaking a motorcyclist or cyclist in strong winds, it’s essential that you give them more space than you would usually need to. Passing wide will mean that a collision is much less likely, even if a sudden crosswind pushed the motorbike off course.
Motorcyclists and cyclists are particularly vulnerable in windy weather as they’re more likely to swerve, wobble or be pushed around by sudden gusts of wind. To protect yourself and others, always give motorcyclists a wide berth when overtaking them in strong winds, whether you’re in a car or on a motorbike yourself.
What requires extra care when driving in windy conditions?
In addition to taking extra care when overtaking motorcyclists and cyclists, you should also be much more careful when overtaking high-sided vehicles like lorries, vans, caravans and horseboxes during windy weather. These types of vehicles are more affected by strong winds due to their large surface areas, which means they can be pushed more easily by a forceful gust of wind. Plus, once you pass these vehicles, you can suddenly be faced with a strong crosswind that you’re no longer protected from, which could affect how well you can handle your vehicle.
Cars are more aerodynamic, making them less likely to be affected by windy conditions. However, this doesn’t mean that cars can’t be suddenly pushed off course, so you should always pass wide when overtaking in strong winds. High-sided vehicles, motorbikes and cyclists should be given the most space due to their particular vulnerability.
Safe driving in strong winds: top tips
You shouldn’t only take precautions while overtaking. To account for the increased dangers, you should adjust your driving when there are strong winds whether you’re driving a car, motorbike or any other type of vehicle. Here are our top tips for driving safely in windy conditions for everyone on the road:
1. Consider if your journey is necessary
When there are very strong winds or stormy weather, it’s best to not drive at all. Driving conditions can become difficult and potentially dangerous once winds reach speeds of 30-45mph. When above 45mph, winds are definitely dangerous and driving should be avoided if possible. Only go ahead with your journey if it’s absolutely necessary – otherwise, you should stay at home and reschedule for when the weather has improved.
2. Pay attention to the news
If you do decide to go ahead with your journey, make sure you keep track of news updates to stay aware of current wind speeds, the worst affected areas and road closures. This will help you plan your journey more effectively and avoid traffic jams.
3. Plan your journey
Planning your journey will also involve choosing the best route to get you to your destination safely. If your usual route is very exposed or involves a lot of trees along the side of the road, it may be best to choose an alternative route that’s more sheltered and less likely to be covered in tree branches and other debris.
4. Drive slowly
Strong winds can significantly affect your handling and braking, making high speeds more dangerous. When driving in strong winds, the best course of action is to drive a bit slower than normal to mitigate the effects of strong gusts of wind. Therefore, if you’re finding it harder to brake quickly, your slower speeds should make the need for sudden braking less likely.
5. Give more room
Since you may not be able to brake as effectively, it’s essential that you increase the space between you and other vehicles. Instead of leaving a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front, try leaving at least a three-second gap to reduce the risk of collisions even further. Staying further back will also help you see hazards in advance and react in time.
Giving more room is also very necessary if you decide to overtake anyone, as they could move unpredictably due to a sudden gust of wind. Motorcyclists, cyclists and high-sided vehicles are the most affected by strong winds, so give these vehicles the most space.
6. Look ahead
As mentioned above, staying back from other vehicles will give you more time to react if you see a hazard ahead, such as a swerving vehicle or a tree branch falling onto the road. Plus, if you see other vehicles being pushed about by the wind, this will give you advance warning of gusts of wind in that direction, helping you prepare yourself ahead of time.
7. Maintain control
Although it’s easier said than done, it’s important that you stay calm and maintain control of your vehicle. Keep a firm grip on your steering wheel so you’re not caught off guard by sudden winds, but don’t grip it too tightly or this may restrict your movement.
8. Park sensibly
Once your journey is over, you still need to consider where to park. Not only should you park in a safe place to prevent motorcycle theft, but you also need to make sure you park in a place where your vehicle isn’t surrounded by trees, buildings or power lines. These could be pushed over by very strong winds and could hit your vehicle. In the worst case scenario, something could fall onto the vehicle while someone is inside, which could be very dangerous or even fatal.
Driving safely in strong winds as a motorcyclist
The above guidance should be followed by everyone on the road. However, as motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable during windy conditions, there are some extra precautions you should follow if you have a motorbike licence motorbike licence:
1. Don’t panic
Again, this is easier said than done, but you should try not to panic if your motorbike is suddenly pushed to the side by strong winds. Unless you brake or turn sharply, you shouldn’t topple over. Instead, to correct yourself, you should steer carefully into the wind. Make sure you give yourself enough space from other vehicles to move in the wind and be able to correct yourself.
2. Use other vehicles as a windbreak
To try and avoid the effects of the wind on particularly exposed stretches of road, you could drive alongside a car or a high-sided vehicle like a lorry to create a buffer. The other vehicle should act as a windbreak and allow you to continue driving without being pushed by sudden gusts of wind. However, if you choose to do this, make sure you don’t drive too closely to the other vehicle because it could move suddenly. Plus, if you eventually pull away from the other vehicle into an open space, you need to prepare yourself to be hit by gusts of wind again.
3. Overtake at an angle
If you ever need to overtake a lorry, you should prepare yourself for the strong gust of wind that’ll hit you once you get past the vehicle. To better deal with this wave of wind, make sure you leave a large gap between you and the lorry while overtaking, and as you’re passing the lorry and emerging into open space, overtake at a slight angle so you’re steering into the wind. This will ensure that the gust of wind isn’t hitting you straight on the side and therefore pushing you across the road.
FAQs about overtaking a motorcyclist in strong winds
Why should you check your nearside mirror when overtaking a motorcycle in windy conditions?
You should check your nearside mirror during and after overtaking a motorcyclist to ensure they’re still in control of their bike. Your vehicle’s draught can cause them to lose their balance, especially if you don’t pass them widely enough.
What should you allow extra room when overtaking a motorcyclist on a windy day?
Motorcyclists are more likely to wobble or be pushed off course in windy conditions. To ensure you don’t collide with them while overtaking, you should always give motorcyclists and cyclists extra room.
Should extra caution be taken when overtaking in windy weather?
Yes, and you should avoid overtaking in these conditions unless it’s necessary. Motorcyclists and cyclists can swerve due to gusts of wind or the draught from your car as you pass, and high-sided vehicles can also be pushed around more easily. Plus, if you’re overtaking a large vehicle like a lorry, you could experience a sudden and strong gust of wind as you pass it.
What mirrors should you check when overtaking?
Drivers should check all of their mirrors and blind spots before overtaking. Checking the right-hand mirror will help you see if the path is clear for you to overtake, and checking the left-hand mirror will help you see if the draught from your car has caused the other driver to swerve or wobble – this is an issue for cyclists and motorcyclists in windy conditions.
Getting to grips with riding a motorbike in strong winds can be quite a learning curve. Visit the Superbike Loans blog for more helpful guidance for new motorcyclists, or get in touch to see if you could be approved for motorcycle financing.