Wet roads and poor visibility account for more than 27% of fatal accidents in SA – 17 tips to stay safe this rain season
With heavy rains and flooding affecting large parts of South Africa Auto & General is urging motorists to be vigilant. While a welcome relief for our reservoirs, rain also signals an uptick in floods and car accidents.
“Adopting a proactive approach to wet weather driving safety, making sure that your vehicle is up to the task and adjusting your driving behaviour is absolutely vital,” says Ricardo Coetzee, Head of Auto & General Insurance.
Auto & General offers the following wet weather driving tips:
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast and look out for warnings of heavy rains, hail and high winds. Avoid dangerous areas where possible.
- Make sure to have all emergency numbers, including that of your insurer, saved on your phone.
- Make a conscious effort to adjust your speed and following distance. Your car needs more distance to stop on wet roads. Allow at least 4 to 8 seconds between your car and the car in front of you.
- Always turn on your vehicle’s headlights when driving in wet weather.
- In heavy rain, use the brightest setting for your car’s tail lights to improve visibility to vehicles behind you.
- Make sure that your wiper blades are in good condition and do a good, clean sweep to ensure maximum visibility.
- Avoid the build-up of fog on the inside of your car windows as this dramatically reduces visibility. Use the anti-fog features or open the window slightly.
- Check that you have sufficient tread on your tyres. This minimises the chances of aquaplaning. Though the South African legal limit is a minimum of 1mm of tyre tread, anything below 3mm can greatly increase the risk of aquaplaning.
- Worn shock absorbers also increase the chances of aquaplaning, even with the best of tyres fitted. It also limits the ability of ABS-systems to work efficiently, so be sure to check your car’s shock absorbers and replace them where necessary.
- Cloudy and rainy weather makes for poor visibility so take extra care when passing other vehicles. Spray from other vehicles reduces visibility considerably, so be sure to anticipate this.
- Avoid abrupt acceleration, braking and steering movements. Sudden stops and turns may result in skidding.
- Be wary of oily patches on the road. Rain, especially at the beginning of the rainy season, often causes oil that has sunk into the road to rise to the surface, making it extremely slippery.
- Do not drive through flooded areas unless you are sure that the water is below the bottom of your wheel rims. If you have any doubt, don’t drive through the pool of water – rather find an alternative route.
- In case of heavy rain, park your car under cover and delay travelling until the storm has subsided. If you are caught in a heavy storm and you feel it’s not safe to drive, look for cover, pull over and/or seek shelter. This could include a covered car park, a petrol station or under a bridge. Don’t park under trees as there is a danger of falling branches and debris. Take extreme care when pulling-over, put on your hazard lights, and don’t risk your safety or the safety of others by dashing madly for cover. Stay in your car and only leave the safety of your sheltered spot when the storm has passed.
- Flash flooding often occurs when rivers flow over low-lying bridges. Avoid crossing bridges or roads next to rivers during heavy rains. If you do get stuck on a flooded road, switch to the lowest possible gear and proceed slowly. If your vehicle gets stuck during flooding, or starts to get washed away, rather abandon the vehicle and get to higher ground. It is dangerous to try and drive out of the water to safety.
- Wait it out. If there is no shelter nearby, motorists are urged to pull-over onto the side of the road if it is safe to do so. In an unsheltered spot, hail damage is inevitable but, it is safer not to drive through a storm when visibility is poor, the roads are slick and there is a risk of aquaplaning through deep pools of water and ice.
- After driving in heavy rain for some time without applying the brakes or if you drive through standing water, lightly apply the brakes to dry them, especially if the vehicle is fitted with drum brakes.
“We can avoid carnage on our roads, but it’ll require a proactive effort from all South African road users, so make a conscious effort to buckle up, take it slow and take extra precautions when driving in the wet. In the event that the unforeseen does happen, it’s wise to ensure that you have comprehensive insurance in place,” Coetzee concludes. DM