Heavy rain last week, particularly in Johannesburg, led to severe flooding, road closures and chaos, leaving over 200 families homeless, countless missing and, as of the count just two days ago, three confirmed deaths. The road is no safe place to be during such wet weather, but, of course, many South Africans commuting to work and back simply don’t have much of a choice, or may find themselves caught off guard.
These wet weather conditions mean that tyres may only have half as much grip as they would on a dry road. We have to brake earlier, drive at slower speeds (especially when entering corners, or passing through flooded areas), and maintain focus on the road at all times. A single error, or rash decision, could result in an accident.
Driving recklessly increases the chances of hydroplaning (aquaplaning), which occurs when the tread of the tyres is no longer able to channel the water away, resulting in (essentially) the tyres lifting from the road surface and onto the surface of the water, instead. This causes the vehicle to skim across the surface of the water, rendering the driver almost helpless to control it.
But, of course, if you do end up aquaplaning, it's important to remain calm. Do not brake, but slowly lift your foot from the accelerator instead. With a firm grip on the wheel, gently steer into the direction that you want the car to go. Again, any harsh braking or sharp steering will make it much, much worse, as any sudden stops and turns may throw the vehicle into a skid. Once you've regained control, gently accelerate.
Motorists need to be hyper vigilant, obey the rules of the road and adapt their driving according to the conditions. So, we put together some helpful road safety tips for when you’re forced to weather the storm.
Before heading out to brave the flooded roads, it’s important that motorists check that their windscreen wipers and brakes are working correctly. Our greatest defence against the wet weather, however, is undoubtedly the condition of our tyres.
Here are some tips, courtesy of Goodyear, for checking the condition of your tyres:
Bad weather is not the time to be taking any chances with safety. Accidents in wet conditions are common, so heed the call for safe driving. Switch on your headlights, maintain a good following distance from the car ahead of you, don’t speed, always wear your safety belt, ensure all children and passengers are strapped in correctly, and don’t do anything irresponsible.
FURTHER READING: Child Seats: Are You Breaking The Law?
Apart from ensuring that your car is in a good condition, the Automobile Association has also warned motorists not to take chances by crossing any low-lying bridges, as the fast-flowing water could cause them to be swept downstream.
Here are twelve tips from the AA to keep you safe when driving in the rain.
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