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Driving in heavy rain

standard wheels:with Andrew Muzamhindo

The rainy season is upon us. Driving in the rain can be a frightening experience. It’s important to take wet weather seriously when you’re on the road.

Heavy rain affects visibility, so always take your driving seriously and slowly. Observe the braking distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you.

It should be at least four seconds when driving in rain and the roads are wet. You need a stopping distance of just two seconds in dry conditions. Leave a gap of at least five cars in normal weather. Leave at least a gap of eight cars between your car and the one in front of you in wet weather.

Imagine you need to brake suddenly in wet conditions from a speed of 100km/h. If your tyres are just on the safety limit i.e with 1.6mm tread, it’ll take you 37.8m to stop. Whereas if you are on new tyres with 8mm tread you’ll stop in 25.9m. That’s a difference of 12 metres and could result in totally avoidable accidents. So please make sure you have decent tyres on your vehicle. I know tyres are now so expensive. One new tyre for an SUV is now rtgs$6 000. Our wages cannot even buy one tyre.

It is recommended that we change our tyres at 3mm, not to wait until the wires are visible. Waiting until your tyres are nearly illegal before replacing them is like fuelling your car when it’s nearly empty, with all the stress this entails. Best to fill up the tank and replace car tyres before you need to do either in a hurry

l During the dry spell, engine oil and grease collects on the road. When it rains, the surface becomes slippery. Continued rain will eventually wash away the oil, but the first few hours are the most slippery so bear that in mind.

l Plan your route. Leave on time. Traffic will be moving slower. Your normal route might be flooded or jammed, so don’t blow a fuse if it is — everyone’s in the same car-shaped boat.

l Turn your headlights on for it helps other drivers to see you.

l Drive in the tracks of a car ahead of you. Generally you want to avoid driving right behind the car in front of you or following in its tracks. In the wet weather you have to do just that. Following another car’s tracks on wet roads can reduce the amount of water between the road and your car’s tyres. Keep a keen eye on their brake lights so you can quickly anticipate their actions. Water splashing up into your car’s engine compartment may damage its internal electrical systems or a pothole under the water could damage a rim or knock your suspension out of alignment. If you can’t gauge the depth, try to avoid it. After you are across the puddle, tap on your brake pedal lightly to dry off some of the water on your rotors.

l Give trucks and buses extra distance because their splash blinds you. Tyres from large vehicles can splash enough water to block your vision completely. Avoid passing one, but if you must, do it as quickly as safety allows.

l Traction and stability control are helpful on rain-soaked roads. Engage them. Traction control helps you maintain grip by putting the brakes on the tyres struggling for traction, while a stability control system monitors your steering input, intervening with the brakes and/or reducing engine power.

l If you find yourself skidding, ease your foot off the accelerator, and steer in the direction you want the car to go. Please do not panic and never let go of the steering wheel — that way you will avoid aquaplaning.

l Do not cross flooded rivers or streams. A metre of rain water can wash a car away. Fifteen centimetres can knock a person off his or her feet.

l When visibility is so poor that the edges of the road or other vehicles can’t be seen at a safe distance, pull over and wait for the rain to ease off. If you can’t stop at a rest area and the roadside is your only option, pull off as far as possible and wait it out. Keep your headlights on and turn on your hazard warning lights to alert other drivers. Be very careful to pick a safe spot to pullover as everyone’s visibility is dramatically reduced.

l Windscreens should be clean and wipers should work properly with the jets positioned correctly. They should be aimed at the screen. It makes sense to clean the windscreen regularly, inside and out, making any necessary wiper adjustments or replacements before they fail to do their job properly. A screen wash additive will help keep your windscreen clean. New varieties claim to repel rain as well.

l A good rule of thumb is that if you need windscreen wipers, then you probably need your headlights as well. Automatic light settings will not always activate in bad weather conditions, so it is up to you to make a sensible decision as to whether these need to be turned on.
Be safe.

l andrew@muzamhindo.com

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