Expert advice on driving when it’s wet
So, winter is here!. That’s great if you’re chained to a plush sofa next to a roaring fire. But driving is about to become more challenging. More rain equals more wet roads. More wet roads means more accidents. The risks of wet-weather driving, however, can be minimised with the right tools and mindset. Here are some of the things you need to keep in mind.
Get your car right
At the most basic level, how are your tyres? Do they have good tread?
“They’re round, they’re black and a lot of people’s attitude is, ‘Who cares?’” says Ian Luff, principal and founder of driver-training organisation, Drive to Survive. “But tread is not for passing rego, it’s to displace water; at 100km/h, the average tyre has to displace about six litres of water each second.” Another key factor: can you see properly? If your wiper blades are worn, your washer bottle doesn’t have a detergent additive or your windows are foggy from the inside, identifying and avoiding risks will be harder. And your headlights need to work, not just for your vision but to help other road-users see you. Always turn them on in wet or foggy conditions.
Get your head right
When it rains, your car’s road-holding capabilities are reduced and other road users are harder to see. Or, another way to put it – you can expect more surprises but won’t be as well equipped to deal with them. Just being aware of this is central to having the right wet-weather mindset. And focus! “The problem is we can ‘astral travel’ while driving around,” says Luff. “Your brain can be in, say, Wollongong while you’re actually back in Engadine.”
Slow down, look up
Posted speed limits are a maximum, not a minimum, so drive to the conditions. And don’t tailgate. You’ll see more of what’s going on in front of you and be able to squeeze the brakes, not jump on them, if you need to stop quickly. “People say, ‘If I leave a gap someone will steal it’,” says Luff, “but we need to remember that we don’t own the roads.”
Beware deadly drizzle
Monsoon-like conditions are scary but light drizzle after a dry spell can be more dangerous. Oils and other contaminants rise to the surface of the road but aren’t washed off entirely. Luff says, “There’s this road in Sydney that all the buses use,” says Luff, “At the bus depot just up the road, they fill them up with diesel, then the buses go around the corners and the overflow spills out. When there’s a light drizzle you see the tow trucks come out and sit at these spots. They know people are going to turn from grip to slip.”
Know when to quit
“When the wipers are on full speed and the water’s like a firehose, do you need an invitation?” says Luff. “You might as well drive down the road and shut your eyes.” Sometimes it’s just safer to stop. If you do, pull over as far as possible to the left, preferably off the road, and put your hazard lights on to warn others. And don’t try your luck with dry-weather-only roads (they’re signposted because they’ll eat up a car in light rain) or flooded surfaces. It only takes a metre or so of moving water to sweep a car away.