Slick, slippery roads and poor visibility make driving in the rain both stressful and dangerous. Suzuki expert Megan MacDonald shares advice on staying safe during the downpour.
Wet roads, poor fellow drivers and severely limited visibility all lead to driving stress, possible danger and avoidable accidents when the rain comes down. Megan MacDonald shares her insights and some easy-to-follow advice on driving safely on the slick South African roads.
TYRE PRESSURE AND TREADKeep your tyres at optimum levels and, importantly, check your tyre tread. “Worn down tyres are very dangerous on slippery roads,” says Megan, because they have less grip against the slick road. The AA adds, “One of the main dangers in the wet is when the tread on the tyres is no longer able to channel away water, and the tyre lifts off the road surface and starts to skim across the water like a speedboat. This 'aquaplaning', as it's called, can happen at slow speeds with little water on the road if your tyres are badly worn. But with enough water on the road, even new tyres will aquaplane, and at lower speeds than you might expect.”
STOPPING DISTANCEDriving fast, in a heavy car or on a wet road all increase your stopping distance dramatically. Say Arrive Alive, “Increase the three- second rule to 5-6 seconds to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you.” (Read more about the importance of stopping distances in our blog post on 13 safe driving tips.)
BE PROACTIVETry and think ahead to what could happen on the road. Indecisiveness makes you unpredictable and dangerous to your fellow drivers, so don’t act hastily, but don’t be overly cautious. Keep the traffic flowing with decisive driving.
BE WARY OF THE FIRST RAIN OF THE SEASONOil collects on the road, and after the first rain it floats to the surface and makes the road slicker than usual.
DRIVING ON THE SHOULDER
“Only move towards the shoulder if you are able to see clearly 150m ahead of you. Keep in mind that pedestrians may be walking on the shoulder to avoid the mud next to the surface of the road,” says Arrive Alive.
CLEAN YOUR WIPER BLADES
Visibility is tricky as it is in the deluge, so don’t add to it with poorly maintained wiper blades. Replace them regularly, and give them a wipe occasionally too.
DRIVING AROUND BENDS
Says Arrive Alive, “Always change to a lower gear before you take a bend, especially a sharp bend. Your speed should be at its slowest as you enter the bend and both your hands should be on the steering wheel. This slow in/fast out technique gives you most control when driving around a bend.”
DON’T TURN ON YOUR HAZARDS
“They’re intended for stationary cars,” says Megan, “and though they increase visibility, they are also distracting and confusing.”
DEMIST YOUR WINDOWS
Instead of keeping the air con on, and you and your guests cold, turn on the heater, switch the setting to the windscreen and warm up the glass to keep it fog free. Says AA, “It's nearly impossible to stay safe without visibility - how often haven't you seen drivers helplessly trying to clear a patch on a fogged windscreen, or feeling their way through heavy rain with failed windscreen wipers. If your heater, demister or wipers are deficient in any way, get them seen to now, before it's too late.” If you have a climate controlled car, it will do all of this itself.
WATCH OUT FOR PUDDLES
“Be careful of puddles, they could be hiding potholes,” warns Megan.
DON’T DRIVE THROUGH DEEP WATER
Anything above ankle height, especially if it’s fast moving, is dangerous and could stall or stop your car. Water can get sucked up the exhaust and damage the electrics, so be wary of water that look too high. Read our post on flash floods for more information on staying safe in deep water
DON’T BRAKE SUDDENLY
Says Arrive Alive, “Never use the brakes suddenly because this may cause the car to skid.”
KEEP YOUR HEADLIGHTS ON
Do anything to increase how visible you are on the road, including turning on your headlights - not your fog lights.
BE EXTRA CAREFUL OF YOUR BLIND SPOT
Rain-splattered windows impair visibility even more, so be extra aware of cars in the your blind spots.
For more driving tips, read our 13 easy driving tips that can save your life. Or keep up to date with all the latest blog articles from Suzuki, subscribe to the Suzuki blog for driving tips, insider advice, safety advice and more, straight to your inbox.
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