Driving in Poor Conditions
Driving in Rain
When rain begins to fall lightly, water, dust, oil and leaves cause the roadway to become slippery. Slow down at the first sign of rain, or drizzle on the road, and turn on your windscreen wipers, headlights, and demisters. Rain affects what you can hear, what you can see and the grip of your vehicle on the road. In wet weather, windows are more likely to mist. In rainy conditions, other vehicles are harder to see. Using your dipped headlamps especially when visibility drops below 100 metres can help you to be seen by other drivers.
When it is raining, other vehicles will be harder to hear because of the noise from the rain and from your heater fan or demisters. You will therefore have to make more visual checks and effective observations to the sides of your vehicle.
You must ensure that your tyres have depth tread in order to maintain your grip in wet weather conditions. The tread will allow the water to be displaced and lessen the chance of skidding. The poor weather condition rule in driving is: ‘Slow Down for Safety’
As it is harder to see far ahead in heavy rain, it will be unsafe to drive at the speed limit of the road, so you will need to slow down and drive at speed you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear. If driving in muddy condition, you may have to stop from time to time to wipe mud off your windscreen, headlights, brake lights and taillights. As a general advice, take the following precautions when driving in rain:
• Turn on your headlights when operating your wipers.
• Increase your following distance to vehicles in front of you.
• Take special care on corners, bends and turns and while braking.
• Avoid aquaplaning by slowing down. If you skid while aquaplaning, try to regain control of the vehicle, by coming off the accelerator and correcting the skid (see the article on skidding).
High winds can cause severe problems for road users. Windy conditions can make driving hazardous, which can result in vehicles travelling at high speed to be unstable. When driving in windy conditions, take special care on exposed sections of road (with little vegetation) where crosswinds may gust across the road. Wind is especially difficult for drivers of trucks, trailers, high capacity buses, etc. When driving in windy conditions, it is advisable to take the following precautions:
• Reduce your speed and make steering corrections when you go from a protected area to an open area and when meeting large vehicles such as trucks and buses.
• In some cases, heavy rain often accompanies high winds. So you must be alert to wet or slippery areas and plan for those conditions.
The general advice when driving in poor conditions such as driving at night, rain, harmattan haze, misty/foggy weather etc, as contained in Section D of the Nigerian Highway Code are as follows:
Put on your wipers;
Reduce your speed;
Ensure that your demister is functional;
Put on your headlights;
Dim your headlights in order to see and be seen;
Put on your hazard lights;
If visibility is poor, move off the road and park safely
Leave your parking lights on
Keep a safe distance from the distance in front of you
In next week’s article we shall be discussing distractions and distracted driving. For further explanations or clarification on the articles in the Essential Skills of Driving column, consult the author.
Stephen K. Dieseruvwe
Director General, Delta State Traffic Management Authority (DESTMA)
**Driver Trainer and Road Safety Consultant