Tips for wet weather driving
Tips to help you navigate through the rainy seasons
Driving safely in wet weather is a skill that could save your life – as well as the lives of other road users.
- First thing to know is that the surface of a wet road – even one over which you travel on a daily basis – offers only a portion of the traction to which you may have become accustomed in the dry, so you should tailor your driving style accordingly.
- Accelerate gradually and evenly, brake earlier, slow your cornering speeds – and try to look further down the road than you would usually do to help you anticipate ways to negotiate or avoid challenges which lie ahead.
- The road holding ability of your vehicle is affected not only by your driving style, but also by the condition of suspension components, the state of wheel alignment and tyre wear. That’s why it pays to make sure that all of the items are properly maintained and serviceable.
For instance, one of the main dangers in the wet is when the tread on tyres is so worn it is no longer able to channel away water. Instead of rubber meeting road, water is forced under the tyres, lifting them off the tarmac and causing aquaplaning – a condition in which there is little or no grip.
If treads are badly worn, aquaplaning can occur even at slow speeds –and it doesn’t take much water on a road’s surface for the condition to manifest. Be aware, though, that even new tyres can aquaplane if the road is heavily awash with water and the vehicle’s speed is high enough.
- In wet weather, worn windscreen wipers or ineffective window demisters also contribute to risk. In proper working order they help to ensure that you can properly see out of the vehicle, but if the windshield or back window mist up – or if wipers front and rear don’t properly clean the screens of water – your ability to anticipate and react to traffic challenges is considerably diminished.
- Also, when driving in the rain, turn on your vehicle’s headlights to help to make your car more visible to other road users. Also, try to avoid big puddles or water which flows fast across a road. On this point, numerous fatalities occur every year when motorists attempt to cross flooded, low-lying bridges. It is easy to become trapped in a flooding vehicle and be swept downstream. For this reason, crossing flooded bridges should be avoided at all costs.
- When following other vehicles, remember that braking and directional changes take longer on a wet surface. A typical minimum following distance in dry conditions is two to three seconds, which should be increased to at least five or six seconds when it is raining.
Rule of thumb is that wet weather driving requires slower speeds, more following distance, keener observation and a properly roadworthy vehicle. The safest drivers in wet weather are those who sensibly adapt to the prevailing conditions.