Driving tips to avoid catastrophe in heavy rain
JOHANNESBURG - Following a prolonged dry spell, much of the eastern half of South Africa has experienced persistent rainfall for the past week, with some low-lying areas also experiencing flooding
This, of course, creates a recipe for disaster on the country’s roads, with motorists having to contend with slippery surfaces as well as large pools of water and even flash floods in some places.
In times like these, it pays to know a few tips and tricks about driving in the rain, and for that, Masterdrive managing director Eugene Herbert offers some good advice:
Driving in rain: how to avoid aquaplaning
According to Herbert, aquaplaning is one of the biggest risks in rainy weather and reducing one’s speed is the best way to lower the chances of this happening. And if you do hydroplane, the best course of action is to slowly lift your foot off the accelerator pedal, but do not brake harshly or move your steering wheel violently.
The danger of skidding is also ever-present on wet roads and here it’s important to remember not to slam on the brakes. Rather continue steering in the direction you want to go and avoid making any harsh adjustments.
Motorists are also advised to turn their headlights on and leave larger following distances when the road surface is wet, as this will give more time to respond if something goes wrong up ahead. Also give yourself more time to stop and to go around corners.
How to deal with pools of water
According to Herbert, drivers should estimate the depth of water and avoid driving through pools in which the water comes to the middle of the tyre or higher.
“Most drivers risk driving through a pool of water but roads which collect water are more vulnerable to collapse and it is easy to underestimate their depth,” Herbert says.
“Where possible, drive in the middle of a road where the water is at its lowest.
Be prepared for off spray from passing cars which can be blinding.”
How to deal with fast flowing water
It is best to avoid driving through fast flowing water altogether as it is very hard to judge its depth, but if you find yourself caught in this situation unexpectedly, Herbert advises driving slowly and steadily through while in first or second gear.
If the car stalls and you are not in danger of being swept away, don’t restart the car, rather get a mechanic to make sure that no water has made its way into the engine.
Once you’ve made it through the water, it is advisable to lightly touch your brake pedal a few times in order to dry the brakes.
What happens if I get caught in an unexpected flash flood?
If you find yourself caught in a full-blown flash flood and you can feel your car losing grip with the road, the best thing to do is to open the door to let some water in, which might help weight the car down and allow the tyres to grip the road again, Herbert advises.
However, if you are in danger of being swept away, it might be best to abandon the car, if it is possible to do this safely.