As South Africans welcome the start of the warmer season and convertible car tops can finally come down minus the beanie, scarf and heavy trench coat, Spring also signals the start of the rainy season in many provinces and with that comes wet, slippery roads and a spike in rain-related car accidents.
Theo van Vuuren, Head of Aftersales for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the world’s 7th largest automobile manufacturer, says that even though South Africans are used to driving in the rain, there are still a few basics to keep in mind to ensure you avoid looking like a rookie rain driver and instead navigate our highways and byways like a boss.
For van Vuuren, who is also a competitive driver, the three most important things to remember when driving in the rain is reducing your speed, increasing your following distance, and turning on your headlights.
“This may seem obvious, but so many drivers seem to forget these fundamentals in the distraction of the mayhem heavy rain seems to wreak on our roads. This is particularly the case when it comes to new drivers or when there is accompanying hail.”
“Nevertheless, remembering those three basics will do much to decrease any driver’s risk of losing control of their vehicle and ensure they remain safe and clearly visible to other road users,” he says.
In addition, van Vuuren shares his top tips when it comes to what not to do or forget about when driving in the rain:
The road is not your personal skid pan
Avoid sudden movements such as sharp steering or breaking that may unbalance the car and cause you to skid. Should you find yourself aquaplaning or skidding and losing control of your car, stay calm and resist the urge to brake.
Instead, gently take your foot off the accelerator pedal and allow the car to slow down itself while holding the steering wheel firmly in the direction you are travelling.
Deep water equals deep trouble
Don’t drive through deep water. Even though the submerged area may not appear to be too deep, there could be submerged obstacles or deep potholes underneath that may cause severe damage to your car.
Worse yet, the water may be flowing quicker than you expect and sweep your car away. Should you find yourself trapped in a submerged vehicle, remove the headrest from the back of your seat and use it to quickly break a window in order to escape.
Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate
Try and anticipate the actions of the other drivers around you. For example, start thinking of how you ought to react if a motorist responds in an unexpected manner to heavy rainfall. For instance, plan what you’d do if another driver sped through an orange light, or slowed down unexpectedly on the highway.
Keep your scanners peeled
While it is important to remain focused on your own driving, don’t forget to remain acutely aware of what’s happening around you, something you can often only do when you’re driving at a reasonable speed, and certainly not while using your cell phone!
Heavy vehicles, such as trucks, or cars travelling at a speed, may cause large puddles of water to spray up seriously affecting visibility. While driving keep an eye on your side mirrors so you can anticipate when you need to turn up the speed of your windscreen wipers or avoid other dangerous hazards that may result from very wet conditions. Make sure your wiper blades are in great shape, by getting your wiper blades checked at your nearest dealer – rubber can become brittle.