What to do when caught in a flash flood
Johannesburg - With KwaZulu-Natal having experienced flash floods on Tuesday, and Gauteng having been beaten down by severe storms on Monday, with more sure to follow as the rainy season commences, it's certainly worth brushing up on your wet weather driving skills and knowing what to do when caught in that unexpected flash flood.
Advanced driver training company MasterDrive offers the following advice on what to do if you find yourself driving in this extreme weather:
First and foremost, avoid low-lying bridges, areas prone to flash floods or large pools of water in the road wherever possible. If, however, you are unable to avoid one of these situations, this is the least that you should do:
Pools of water
- Estimate the depth of the water. Avoid driving through water which comes to the middle of your tyre. Even if you avoid being swept away you risk serious damage to your car. 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
- Drive in the middle of a road where the water is usually at its lowest
- Pass one car at a time, and do not drive through water against oncoming vehicles
- Never drive through fast flowing water. It only takes 15cm to touch the bottoms of most cars and consequently cause loss of control. Your car tyres will lift off the tar at 30cm of water where you can lose control or get washed away. Even 4x4s can be washed away in 60cm of water
- If too late to avoid, drive slowly and steadily through while in first or second gear or the lowest gear in automatic vehicles
- Once you are through the water, lightly touch your brake a few times to dry them off.
- If your car stalls and you are not in danger of being swept away do not restart the car. Rather get a mechanic to check no water has made its way into the engine
When caught in an unexpected flash flood.
- If suddenly you start losing grip it might be because the car is starting to float.
- Open the door to let some of the water in which will weigh the car down and allow the tyres to grip the road again.
- If you are in danger of being swept away abandon the vehicle if you have an opportunity to do so safely.
- If you are swept away by water when you exit the car, lift your toes and point them downstream and manoeuvre yourself around obstacles.
Some general tips for driving in the rain
- Always turn on your vehicle's headlights when driving in rain.
- Cloudy and rainy weather makes for poor visibility so take extra care when passing; spray from other vehicles significantly reduces visibility.
- Adjust your speed and following distance so that you can stop inside the area you can see, bearing in mind that your car needs more distance to stop on wet roads. Ideally, allow 4 - 8 eight seconds between your car and the car in front of you.
- Avoid abrupt acceleration, braking and steering movements. Sudden stops or turns can cause a skid.
- After driving in heavy rain for some time without using the brakes or if you've driven through standing water, lightly apply the brakes to dry them, especially if the car has old-style drum brakes.
- If you have car trouble, turn on your hazard lights and pull as far off the road as you can. If possible, ensure that you have a reflective triangle that can be placed on the road - a sufficient distance behind your car to warn oncoming drivers.
And how to prepare your car for the rainy season
- Check that your wiper blades are in good condition and make a good, clean sweep to ensure maximum visibility.
- Check that you have enough tread on your tyres; the South African legal limit is a minimum of 1mm of tyre tread - but anything less than 3mm greatly increases the risk of aquaplaning.
- Worn shock absorbers also increase the chances of aquaplaning, even with the best of tyres fitted. They also limit the efficiency of antilock braking systems, so check them and replace where necessary.
Sources: Masterdrive, Dial Direct
Also read: How to stay safe in a storm