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Stormy Weather

4 min read
With Singapore prone to sudden downpours, drivers need to learn some practical steps to mitigate the increased risk arising from inclement weather.

While a sprinkle of rain is nothing to be concerned about, a heavy downpour is a different matter altogether and can result in one of the most difficult driving situations.

Rainy conditions can be dangerous: wet roads tend to be more slippery than usual, and reduced visibility will affect how the car handles and the driver’s ability to negotiate the roads. Heavy rains also lead to heavy road congestions. All these factors lead to an increased probability of accidents happening.

When you are on a wet road, your ability to stop your car will be greatly reduced, so the first thing you need to do is to slow down — but do it safely. Do not stomp on the brake pedal in these conditions as your car may skid and steer into oncoming traffic. Slamming on the pedal could also force water into the brake system and render it less effective. Apply pressure on the brake gradually, easing your foot off the pedal slowly to bring your speed down.

Extend the safe distance between you and the car ahead. The stopping distance in wet conditions is usually double that of dry conditions, so your three-second rule needs to become a six-second rule. On wet roads, grip and visibility levels are much poorer, while the reaction times of a typical driver is much slower. The extra distance gives you time to react to any adverse situation that could arise, such as the car ahead losing control or braking suddenly.

In sudden heavy downpours, flash floods may occur, during which you may run the risk of hydroplaning. This is when a catchment of water builds up quickly on the road, making it harder for your tyres to grip the road surface, causing you to lose control of your car. If you are aware of certain flash flood hotspots, avoid them even if it means taking a longer route. Safety always comes first.

If you have cruise control, disable it when you are driving in the rain. Even though most modern cars have systems such as traction control to deal with wet conditions, the danger of cruise control is the set level of speed and the additional time it takes for you to disengage it to regain control of your car should you encounter rainy conditions or if your car hydroplanes.

Visibility on the roads during a torrential rainstorm can be tricky, with the rain pounding your windscreen and dark storm clouds impeding daylight. Make sure to turn your headlights on to make your car visible to others, thus reducing the chances of a collision. Avoid using your high beam function, as that is dangerous not only to others but also to you. The high beam can be blinding to oncoming traffic, causing drivers to only see that irritating blazing light and nothing much around it, which endangers other road users.

Some drivers have the habit of activating their hazard lights when it rains. Hazard lights indicate that the vehicle is not moving, that it has pulled over on the side of the road for an emergency, such as a flat tyre. So turning on the hazard lights while a vehicle is moving will only cause confusion.

A common issue when it rains is your car windows fogging up. This happens when condensation builds up on the inside of your car as your air con recirculates the air inside the cabin. Though most modern cars have a demisting function for the windscreens, sometimes it takes too long to activate, which can become a safety issue if the lack of visibility is hampering your driving. Try turning off the recirculation button and crank down the windows a little. This way, the dryer outside air can lower the humidity inside the cabin, defogging the windows at the same time.

Always ensure your tyres have sufficient tread depth to disperse water from the road surface more efficiently as well as are properly inflated; an under inflated tyre causes more wobble and instability on an already slippery surface.

Make a conscious effort to stay safe while driving in the rain by keeping to these simple steps — you will be helping to reduce unnecessary accidents caused by the rainy weather.

Why not reinforce what you have just read by signing up for this workshop? Each three-hour course will cover two of the following three modules: Speed Awareness, Space Management, Environment Management.

Upon successful participation, you will receive a complimentary one-year AA Ordinary Membership as well! For more information, click here.

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