Rain does not only reduce visibility; it also decreases the amount of grip on your car’s tires despite advancements in thread design. Heavy rains also cause flash floods which make it more risky for motorists to drive from point A to B.
With driver and commuter safety in mind, the Manila Standard has come up with a basic guide on how to drive safely and defensively during inclement weather. These simple rules to remember can make your journey easier and safer during wet weather driving.
Check and use your headlights
If you do decide to venture out, the last thing you need are busted headlights. Take a moment to check them and see if both sides are working properly. Check also your car’s rear tail lights.
When the rain does start to fall, you should turn your headlights on and don’t be an idiot by switching on your hazard lights because this might mislead other drivers on the road that something is wrong with your car.
If it’s zero visibility, the best thing to do is switch on your fog lamps and headlights. This will improve your vision, and enable other drivers to see you in good time. If you have automatic headlamps, make sure these are activated – or if you can’t, override them manually by turning the headlamp switch to the dipped beam setting.
Choose the correct headlamp and fog lamp bulbs
With dozens of headlight bulbs being sold in the local market, it is advisable to use bluish white bulbs for your front headlamps and yellow bulbs for your foglamps.
The Land Transportation Office guidelines say that you should only use your fog lamps when the visibility drops below 100m. A good rule of thumb is to think about whether you can see the tail lights of the car in front of you. If you can’t, and you know it isn’t that far away, you turn your headlights and fog lamps on for better visibility.
A technology which is appropriate for rainy day use is a product from PIAA of Japan. PIAA wanted to perfect LED lighting when they designed reflector-facing bulbs and new “first-in-the-industry” reflector technology. The innovative design offers significantly improved lighting and beam control compared to conventional LED and halogen lamps with forward-facing bulbs. PIAA lamps put the light were you need it most: On the Road. The result is greater visibility for drivers. PIAA has LED bulbs for both headlights and fog lamps as well.
However, rain does not mean you need to use your main beam headlamps. Use them only in heavy rain, and most of the time, turning on your park lights and fog lamps is appropriate enough.
Drive defensively on the wet
Cast your mind back to your driving test, and you’ll remember that stopping distances increase in the wet. In actual fact, it takes about twice as long to stop on a wet road as it does on a dry one. So you should increase the distance between you and the car you’re following by at least a car and a half to allow some safe braking distance.
A good rule of thumb is that you should be around four seconds behind the car in front of you if the road is wet. That way, if that car has to stop suddenly – or worse still, crashes into a car in front – you will have time to stop, or take avoiding action.
To check you’re far enough away, watch for the car in front to pass an object – a lamp post, bridge or sign. Then count how many seconds go by before you pass the same object. If it’s under four seconds, you should back off and allow more space.
Driving in the wet isn’t just about leaving more space, though. You should also try and avoid sudden moves that might unbalance the car, such as sharp steering or braking. Doing so increases the likelihood of your car skidding.
Keep an eye on what’s around you, too. And remember that large vehicles kick up more spray, so if you’re about to pass one, you should be prepared to increase the speed of your windscreen wipers to compensate.
Also, if another driver is following you too closely or driving aggressively, don’t be tempted to react. It’s easier and safer to concentrate on your own driving, perhaps pulling over to let them go on their merry way if you’re able to, than to do something provocative that might cause them to crash into you.
How to react against aquaplaning
Aquaplaning is a phenomenon that happens when your car’s tires encounter a substantial amount of water on the road which causes the tires to lift away from the road surface due to water build up under the tire. Once it loses contact with the tarmac, you’re effectively ‘surfing’ along, with little or no grip.
You can usually tell if you’re aquaplaning because your steering will suddenly feel light and unresponsive, and you can hear the displaced water roaring against the inside of the car’s wheel arches. If it happens to you, resist the temptation to brake – doing so will almost certainly cause you to skid, which could have disastrous consequences.
Instead, you should stay as calm as you can, take your foot off the accelerator pedal gently, and allow the car to slow down by itself, while keeping the steering pointing in the direction of travel.
Eventually, the tires will bite down through the water and come back into contact with the road, at which point you should regain control.
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