Wet Weather Conditions and Safe, Defensive Driving
Defensive driving includes our ability to adjust to the road, traffic, and weather conditions. In South Africa, we tend to experience an uptick in road crashes when the skies open and the roads get wet!
MasterDrive has, given heavy rains around much of the country, and the increased probability of one’s vehicle skidding in the wet emphasized messaging on what to avoid during wet weather driving.
Clearly, judging by the number and frequency of collisions, most drivers need to be reminded of some basic facts which, if applied, will positively impact on their wet weather driving. For the competent drivers (even if you only think you are) who may not think they need the information please humour us and, at least, pass this on to another ‘deserving’ person.
What are the most common mistakes when driving in Wet Weather?
Mistake No. 1: Not adjusting speed to conditions
The speed limit is just a start; drivers need to adjust their speed to match their immediate driving conditions. The three factors that should always be considered are visibility, traffic, and traction.
Solution: If visibility is minimised or if the road is wet, snowy, or icy, you should slow down significantly. This will give you more time to respond to any incident, and help prevent a loss-of-traction situation.
Mistake No. 2: Doing more than one thing at a time
Even in clear, dry conditions, it is easy to overload the one tyre, which ends up having to do the most when a driver attempts to do more than one thing at a time, such as turn and brake. In wet weather driving, the risk of losing traction is increased significantly when a driver attempts to force the vehicle to do two or more things at once.
Solution: Do one thing at a time - brake, then steer or turn, then accelerate. This helps prevent demanding too much of the tyre that takes the brunt of the traction requirements, thereby reducing the chance of a loss-of-traction situation.
Mistake No. 3: Not looking far enough ahead
Too many drivers only look just ahead of their own vehicle, often not detecting a change in conditions down the road to which they need to respond. A lane change or pre-emptive braking could be just the thing needed to prevent an incident.
Solution: Heads Up: get those eyes moving. Work on looking further ahead (12 - 15 seconds), and also predicting what other drivers might do that could create problems. Detecting potential problems ahead as early as possible can make the difference between a collision and a near miss. especially during wet weather driving.
Mistake No. 4: Not maintaining enough space
Most drivers fail to maintain enough space between their vehicle and other vehicles around them. Frequently, drivers position themselves too closely to the vehicle ahead. Yet, maintaining ‘open’ space to the sides is also critical - you may need to move into that space quickly. If you don’t have that space, you’ll be without an effective option to prevent a crash.
Solution: Back off a bit and lift up on the accelerator to keep open space to at least one side of the vehicle. Space is your best friend out on the road - to the front, sides, and rear. It’s hard to collide with something if you have plenty of space around the vehicle.
Mistake No. 5: Not giving the road your full attention
Driving in poor weather requires your undivided concentration so you can constantly adjust your speed and position and detect any potential problems as early as possible. A ‘shiny’ patch on the road ahead - a diesel spill - could indicate tyres possibly losing traction, or another vehicle pulling out into your lane. If you add other tasks to driving, such as using a cell phone or changing the radio station your risk increases dramatically.
Solution: Stay focused on driving. Get there, and then get busy with non-driving activities. Common sense precautions include programming navigation systems and adjusting music selections before driving, and, of course, ignoring down the cell phone.
So, even if you are an expert driver, we are sure that the reminders noted above are worth sharing with colleagues, family and even friends to prepare for wet weather driving.
- Slow down for poor visibility
- When there is insufficient street lighting at night
- When the sun is low on the horizon
- In the mist, in rain, or during veld fires or storms.
Reduce your speed to below the speed limit as these conditions reduce vision and prevent a driver from reacting in time to hazardous situations.
- Slow down when road conditions are not good
- Driving at high speed on a wet road surface, on gravel or through roadworks will cause a vehicle to skid if you must brake or change direction suddenly.
- You have then lost control as the vehicle will continue skidding at the same speed and in the same direction as it was travelling
Be Prepared for Rain and Wet Roads
The MD of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, has provided some tips on how to prepare for the rain:
- Give yourself more travel time so you do not have to rush in bad weather
- Adjust your speed to suit the conditions, however, do not slow down unnecessarily as this is just as dangerous
- Driving recklessly fast increases chances of hydroplaning
- Do not use cruise control and turn on your headlights
- Brake earlier and with more caution
- Avoid water which has pooled on the roads
- If you cannot avoid this, drive through it more slowly in case there is hidden debris
- Leave more following room
- Ensure there are no distractions in the vehicle before you leave
- If you hydroplane, slowly lift your foot from the accelerator but do not brake harshly or move your steering wheel violently
- Consider going for driver training on a skip pan to learn how to react if you do lose control during rainy weather
Herbert says another essential way to ensure you are ready for the first rains is to make sure your vehicle is properly maintained. Inspect your vehicle to ensure all is in order:
- Check your windscreen wiper blades to make certain they still work adequately and have not perished
- Check your demister is working properly
- Ensure you regularly upkeep your brakes. To test your brakes after going through a puddle, tap it a few times
- Ensure your tyres are not smooth and are inflated correctly. Over or under-inflation will reduce traction even more
Be brave and drive carefully in the wet weather.