By Vuyi Mpofu
Let me start by reminding all motorists that road safety is everyone’s responsibility. Your skills, experience and well-maintained vehicle are generally the difference between you getting home safely, or not.
However, when it rains, common sense should be at the top of your safety list because wet and slippery roads can be quite treacherous. Hazards such as pools of water, submerged potholes, non-functioning traffic lights, panic-stricken pedestrians and oil slicks collectively make driving stressful.
With these hazards in mind, it helps to be reminded why a combination of common sense and driving skills could help you get out of the wet, incident-free.
Common Sense Safety Tip #1: Don’t Drive Too Fast
One of the first rules of safe everyday driving is to stick to the speed limit. When it rains, however, motorists should reduce their speed. Anytime there are poor weather conditions, reducing your speed could save your life. Driving slower than usual gives you time to react to fast-changing traffic conditions as well as allow you to compensate for difficult or slippery road conditions.
Common Sense Safety Tip #2: Don’t Follow Too Closely
Keeping a safe following distance is always a good idea and even more so when driving in the rain. When driving in the rain, the rule is to keep a 3-second following distance. When it rains though, it is advisable to double your following distance to 6 seconds instead. This gives you more stopping time should the driver in front of you hit their brakes unexpectedly.
Common Sense Safety Tip #3: Don’t Brake Harshly
When it rains, the water mixes with oil that may be on the road (from drops of oil from stationary cars in bumper-to-bumper traffic), making the road slippery. In such conditions, jumping onto your brakes can lead to hydroplaning which is when your car spins out of control. Apart from it being a frightening experience an out-of-control car can go anywhere potentially causing harm to other road users.
Common Sense Safety Tip #4: Don’t Drive Distracted
Distracted driving is a major problem on roads globally but specifically when driving in the rain. Remember that distracted driving isn’t limited to using a cell phone but also includes fiddling around in the glovebox, mentally ticking off a to-do list, or reaching for the baby in the back seat. Driving distracted when it rains is a particularly bad idea as traffic conditions change a lot faster when it is wet. Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes & mind focused on the road so you can identify and react to potential threats on the road.
Driving in the rain doesn’t have to be stressful and by remembering these tips, you increase your chances of getting to your destination safe and sound.