Winter is always a challenging time weather-wise and recently we’ve seen floods hit across the world. In the UK it tends to be severe rainfall that causes rivers to burst their banks and cause flooding in towns, but elsewhere in the world a combination of high rainfall, melting snow and ice can cause severe problems. New Zealand is the latest part of the world to be hit by flooding and a number of campers have recently had a lucky escape.
In one particular incident this week, the Waimea River overflowed and burst its banks, washing away a campervan and all its contents. Thankfully the four campers were unhurt, but they will be left with quite a campervan insurance claim and a few difficult nights trying to recover what they can.
Flooding has caused severe damage to the campervan and motorhome industry over the past few months and it’s not just the tourists who have suffered. Many campsites both in the UK and in popular destinations like New Zealand have been completely flooded, leaving them without business and with a serious recovery job to undertake. Often this leaves campers without a place to sleep and many have had to be evicted from campsites over the last few weeks.
Persistent rainfall is not just dangerous to the campervan community at present, it could have serious long term effects. Campers aren’t going to be inclined to invest in motorhomes or campervans for the long term if rain continues and the risk of flooding will really detriment the off-peak demand for tourist areas.
We can only hope that over the next few years we see some improvement in the weather and the flood protection for campsites and that hopefully campers can return to their favourite areas without fear of being washed out.
The devastating floods across the UK have already seen holders of motorhome insurance policies putting in claims for vehicles damaged due to flood water inundating their vehicles, and insurance companies are now extolling drivers to take the greatest care when driving in severe weather conditions.
Of course if a journey can be avoided when severe weather conditions are around then by all means put it off, but modern day living and the meteorology of the UK means most of us have to drive in heavy rain at some time. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t be prepared. Before starting a journey in adverse weather conditions it is always best to set the heater and climate control buttons appropriately, you will need a clear windscreen at all times and misting can easily compromise your vision just when you need it most. Keep your eyes on the road at all times, it may sound obvious but total concentration will make you drive the vehicle more smoothly which will help negotiate any possible obstacles.
Most modern motorhomes have cruise control which is a great asset on long journeys, however, on very wet roads they can be a problem if the vehicle starts to aquaplane, and it is advisable to turn off cruise control as soon as you encounter heavy rain. When driving through roads immersed in water do not set off if another vehicle is traversing the hazard from the opposite direction, and don’t set off at all unless you can see dry land at the other side. Drive slowly when negotiating the flooded road but never take your foot off the accelerator, if you do water may access your exhaust pipe and you will have big trouble. When you do get to the other side of the hazard test your brakes gently several times when it is safe to do so, enabling them to dry out before you really need them.
Drive slower than you would in normal conditions and remember that stopping distances will increase on saturated roads, always be aware of pedestrians and cyclists and for this reason you should have your headlights on and windscreen wipers on their fastest setting until conditions ease.
From theft to an encounter with a low hanging branch, anything can happen when motorhome owners are off exploring the United Kingdom and beyond. Recent research has uncovered the Top Five Terrors based on the claims made by motorhome insurance customers.
Damage to motorhomes accounted for a whopping 32% of all claims made by owners and a quarter of these were down to window damage. Motorhome windows are typically made from a lightweight acrylic that has many benefits such as excellent insulating properties. However, the bad news is that they can be damaged easily. Owners need to exercise caution when driving down narrow roads and lanes as overhanging bushes and trees can cause scratches and damage to the windows. Final checks can be a pain when owners are keen to get on the road but they should not be avoided and responsible owners should double check that all windows are closed before setting off. Second on the list and accounting for 27% of claims, are impact-related insurance claims. No matter how cautious the driver is, impact damage is still high on the claims scale. Taking time to plan the journey and arriving in daylight will reduce the chances of accidentally damaging the motorhome.
Coming in at number three is the unpredictable UK weather. Owners need to be prepared for rain, shine, heavy snowfall or even giant hailstones – at any time of the year. The weather and its effects are responsible for 13% of claims with 5% of these being due to flooding alone. Owners are advised to think about flood areas and the proximity of their holiday pitch to water, such as the sea, rivers or lakes. Owners are advised to pitch on higher ground and look for areas with good drainage. Fourth on the list is theft and this accounted for 9% of all claims. Most owners feel that possessions are safest where they can “keep an eye on them” however, some owners forget this rule when their vehicle is parked up on their own driveway.
In joint fifth place are road accidents and wheel-related claims that make up 8% of the claims. Motorhome owners are proud of the fact that they are involved in so few road accidents and they are more worried about theft then crashing. With the average cost of a motorhome insurance claim coming in at around sixteen times the cost of an annual insurance policy, it pays to take out cover and thankfully the majority do this and avoid pricey repairs or even replacement.
Campervan drivers were amongst those stuck in traffic overnight at the weekend as snow and ice caused havoc right across the UK.
As temperatures dropped to -10 degrees in some parts of the UK, snow blizzards caused travel chaos. Heathrow Airport cancelled hundreds of flights, train lines were frozen and covered in snow leaving passengers stranded, and motorists in several regions were caught out by the treacherous conditions. In the South East drivers had to sleep in their vehicles as the M25 and M40 became impassable mainly because of jack-knifed lorries. One group of youngsters travelling back from a music gig found themselves sleeping on a garage forecourt in their campervan all night waiting for the weather to subside.
James Knight, who was one of the group, said “We were returning from a gig near Bicester and as the weather got worse and worse we realised that we might be stranded. We passed a group of houses in the slow traffic and noticed a garage forecourt that was closed. We slipped in and just bedded down for the night. It was cold but better than being stuck on the road, we had to dig ourselves out though in the morning.”
Motoring assist companies reported record call outs over the weekend with one major firm saying they had over 40,000 emergency calls on Saturday alone. The Met Office and the Highways Agency have both warned drivers that conditions could be treacherous today and tomorrow with black ice being the major problem. In fact campervan insurance providers are expecting claims to show a significant increase in the remainder of February as weather forecasters predict the entire month could be cold with the high risk of snow and ice set to continue for the next few weeks.