While insurance helps sort out the aftermath, when it comes to car accidents, prevention is always far better than cure. When it rains, the chances of an accident increase owing to decreased visibility and slippery roads – and with most accidents caused by driver behaviour, how you drive has a direct influence on your safety and that of others.
That’s confirmed by the South African Insurance Association, which says motor insurance claims trends show that driver behaviour contributes to more than 60% of road accidents.
By taking extra care you can make your journey safer. Apply these tips to improve your wet weather driving skills.
Make sure your headlights, taillights, brake lights and indicators are working properly. Check that your windscreen wipers are in good condition; replace the blades if frayed, brittle or damaged. Brittle blades make a distinctive noise as they sweep across a dry or damp windscreen. And remember to turn on headlights in the rain to increase your chances of seeing and being seen in wet conditions.
Driving to the conditions is essential – and when raining, wet roads mean slowing down and increasing following distances. If you encounter a sudden downpour, take your foot off the accelerator and let speed drop gradually. Never use the brakes suddenly, as this can cause the car to skid. Avoid making sudden lane changes, as this can increase the possibility of aquaplaning – when your tyres ‘float’ on a layer of water, breaking their contact with the road surface.
Mind the bends
Anticipation is key when approaching a bend, more so in the rain. Slow down before the corner and engage a lower gear, particularly with sharp bends. Your speed should be at its slowest as you enter the bend and both your hands should be on the steering wheel, with gentle acceleration through the curve. This slow in/fast out technique gives you most control.
It is also advisable to increase following distances from two seconds to four seconds.
Be careful of other vehicles to the rear and in blind spot areas as they are especially difficult to see through rain-spattered windows.
Middle of the road
Whenever possible, drive in the middle lane when it’s raining. Water pools more in the outside lanes because of limited drainage, making the road surface more dangerous.
The deep end
Attempting to drive through deep water can cause damage to your vehicle’s electronics; it is also impossible to gauge just how deep a puddle is before you go through it. If you have to drive through a puddle, go especially slowly and turn around or reverse if the water reaches the bottom of your car doors. If your car gets submerged too deeply, the engine will stall and water might enter the engine through the air intake forcing you to replace it.
Never drive over bridges covered by moving water.
After the rain
When the rain has passed, make sure to test your brakes particularly if the downpour was heavy. Water can have a brief effect on disc brakes; braking a little (when safe to do so) quickly dispels water on the surface of the discs, allowing them to function as normal.
Finally, remember that rain does not cause car accidents – people diving in the rain do. By taking note of these easy tips, you can become a better wet weather driver, reducing the risk of accident to yourself, your family and other road users.
For more information on car insurance, visit www.miway.co.za
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Insurance Limited (‘MiWay’) is a direct, short-term insurance company, offering customers a range of short-term insurance products including motor, household and homeowners insurance as well as add-on products such as warranty cover and liability cover. MiWay’s shareholder is Santam, a blue-chip JSE-listed company.