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October has been declared Transport Month, an annual feature on the calendar of the Department of Transport and one of the platforms through which the department engages directly with its stakeholders.  The specific objectives of October Transport Month include the promotion of greater awareness of road safety behaviour for both drivers and pedestrians.


Learning the art of safe driving in adverse weather requires preparation and some training.  Start with a vehicle that’s ready for the rigors of the wet driving: good tyre tread, firm brakes and streak-free wipers.  Add wet-weather driving techniques: dealing with reduced visibility and traction, steering, braking and skid control.  The driver who knows what to do in an emergency is more likely to stay in control.

Preparing to drive in wet weather

Emergencies happen suddenly with little time for evaluation and decision-making.  You must be prepared to act quickly to avoid a crash.  A global review of thousands of collisions found that almost half of all drivers involved took no action to prevent or avoid a road traffic incident.

Think caution Get in the right frame of mind before you get behind the wheel.  According to traffic safety authorities, lack of attention is a major contributing factor to auto crashes.  Additionally, your alertness level normally drops around your regular bedtime.  Nightfall only magnifies your risk by limiting your field of visibility.  If you must drive during your regular sleep cycle, stop regularly and freshen up.  A best practice is to travel with another person so that the responsibility of driving can be shared to ensure a rested driver behind the wheel.


Driving when visibility is poor

Regardless of your driving experience, the odds are greater that you’ll have a collision in wet weather.  A hard rain can limit visibility so that you can’t see the edges of the road, traffic signs or other vehicles on the road. If you must drive under such conditions, it’s helpful to have the knowledge and skill to cope with the challenge.

A clear view

Keep your windscreen and windows clear. It’s important to clean the inside of your windows at least once a week.  Use the vehicle’s defogger to keep front and rear windscreens clear.  Use your air conditioner to reduce humidity inside the vehicle.

A bright idea

When you drive on wet streets, mud and dirt splash on your headlights, reducing illumination by up to 90 percent.  Stop periodically during a long trip to clear your headlights.  If your vehicle is not equipped with daytime running lights, always drive with your low-beam headlights on, especially on dark or overcast days. Use low beams and fog lights in fog.

Recognise a crisis

When visibility is so limited that you can’t see the edges of the road or other vehicles at a safe distance, it’s time to pull off the road and wait for the rain to ease up.  It’s best to stop at a rest area or exit the highway and go to a protected area.  If the roadside is your only option, pull off the road as far as you can, preferably past the end of a guardrail.  Vehicles parked at the side of the road are frequently struck by other drivers.  Respect the limitations of reduced visibility and turn headlights off and emergency flashes on to alert other drivers.

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Skills for reduced-traction driving

Wet roads mean less traction.  Conditions are most dangerous during the first 10 minutes of a heavy downpour as oil and debris first rise, then wash away.  Knowing how to handle less traction reduces the potential for aquaplaning, skidding or getting stuck in the mud.

You need steady pulling and moderate power when traction is poor.  The best remedy when wheels are stuck in the mud or a soft shoulder is to apply power slowly and accelerate carefully, giving enough fuel to prevent the engine from stalling and ease along gradually until traction improves.

Steering clear of collisions

You may need to take evasive action in poor weather to avoid a collision.  Steering around an obstacle is preferred to braking at speeds above 40 kph because less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop.  In wet weather, sudden braking often leads to skids.

In summary, driving risk increases in wet-weather conditions.  To maximise your driving safety, be aware of the road conditions, reduce speed appropriately, and be prepared for challenging situations.