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Why heatwaves make driving more dangerous



We're all accustomed to the dangers of wintery weather when it comes to driving on UK roads. Snow, aqua-planing and black ice are well-known hazards that anyone driving across the British Isles is well aware of.


But the recent heatwaves this summer will have caught a few drivers out as to the dangers that extreme heat can present too, especially as to how prolonged periods of hot weather can affect road surfaces.


And there are two key issues that arise for drivers.


Hot tarmac can melt


If you saw gritters out on the roads during the summer, the heatwave was the reason why! Although an odd sight outside of the winter months, gritters spreading dust on major road surfaces was a critical step to ensure they retained their integrity.


High temperatures run the risk of melting road surfaces, making them tacky and potentially dangerous. The spreading of dust helps to stop this happening by making the bitumen in the road surface inert.


Melting roads can damage car tyres, as well as damaging the road surface itself which can begin to buckle and require extensive repairs.



The first rain after a heatwave can be treacherous


The second danger of heatwaves for drivers is a little less known, and can catch many out!


The first rain after a heatwave, and this summer we saw torrential downpours following a weak of red weather warnings, can also make driving conditions extremely dangerous.


Heatwaves cause the bitumen in asphalt road surfaces more mobile, causing it to bleed through to the surface, reducing the texture and grip of the road surface.


This combines with an additional issue where road surfaces build up rubber and oil particles, and when the rain finally does come, it mixes these substances to create a greasy, slippery layer.


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Howard Robinson of the Road Surface Treatments Association commented back in the summer that: “Wet roads after a prolonged hot, dry period can become slippery. In addition to ensuring that their tyres are in good condition and properly inflated, motorists should slow down and drive with care.


“Just like the freezing and ice of the winter, summer’s high temperatures underline how essential it is to ensure that roads are maintained to a correct standard. Unfortunately, continued cutbacks to highway budgets means that councils cannot afford the necessary programmes of long-term maintenance and surface dressing to ensure pothole-free, skid-resistant roads.”


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