Keep safe in the wet
Know how to drive in the rain
Keep safe in the wet
The term 'defensive driving' sounds a bit negative, as though you're driving around terrified of everything, just waiting to have a crash. In reality, defensive driving is what every one of us should be doing – it basically means driving to avoid being in an accident, and taking into account every possible obstacle around you. A driving instructor of mine once phrased it as, "Assuming that everyone on the road is clueless, and making sure you predict what they're going to do next."
The Arrive Alive campaign words it more formally, like this: "Defensive driving is the practice of maintaining an awareness of road and weather conditions, other vehicles, road users and potentially hazardous situations and then taking steps to prevent becoming the cause of or becoming involved in a road crash."
You'll notice that Arrive Alive mentions weather in their definition, and this is something that we should be very aware of when we drive. In the snow (which isn't common in South Africa) or in the rain, we need to drive differently and more conservatively than in clear weather. There are two main reasons for this: visibility (both your visibility out of the car, and other drivers' visibility of you) and reduced traction for your vehicle.
Whatever the reasons, the result should be the same: we should reduce the speed at which we drive and we should increase the following distance between us and the vehicle in front of us. Reduced visibility means that we react later or more slowly to potential hazards, which is fine if we are a fair distance from the car in front of us but can be problematic if we're on their bumper.
Reduced traction (slippery roads or even deep puddles) have the same effect – they increase the length of time it takes our vehicle to brake to a standstill, and can also negatively affect steering so that even if you turn the steering wheel, your vehicle continues straight.
So how far should we be from the car in front of you? In good weather it is recommended that you stay about 3 seconds behind the car in front of you – that equates to about 90m at 100km/h. In wet weather, increase this to 6 seconds or 180m.
Also watch out for puddles on the road, which can cause aquaplaning – when your car's tyres actually float on top of a film of water, meaning that they are no longer in contact with the road and therefore can't be braked or steered.
2. Increase following distances;
3. Switch your headlights on;
4. Switch on your demister;
5. Don't break suddenly;
6. Make sure you buy a car with ABS braking;
7. Assume that every puddle has a pothole beneath it.
8. Enrol in a defensive driving program – courses are offered by the Toyota Gazoo Racing Driving Academy. It's cool to be able to tell your friends that you've done an advanced driving course, it can improve your insurance premium, and most importantly, it could save your life and those of others.