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Opinions Thu, 26 Nov 2020

Considerations for safe driving in adverse weather conditions

Did you know that rain can cut visibility down to approximately 30 meters in adverse weather conditions? Did you also know that heavy rains significantly increases the risk to both motorists and passengers on the road?

Climate change has necessitated this conversation of safe motoring in adverse weather conditions. There is no better time to speak PRECAUTION as Ghana is still experiencing heavy and almost frequent rainfalls in parts of the country in a period that used to see very little or no rainfall (i.e. the dry season), and these rains have been known to result in floods (case in point, the recent flooding of Weija/Kasoa).

It may be argued that learning to navigate a vehicle during rainy weather takes training and experience. However, drivers still need to ensure some basic but vital features of their cars are in excellent condition to ensure safety at these times.

Features such as firm brakes, streak-free wipers, headlights, brake lights turn indicators, air condition, crack-free windshields and importantly perfect tire tread are essential.

So, although driving is all about calculations and making many vital decisions in a short time span, these are even more critical during bad weather, when visibility and traction are not only reduced but also accidents are more eminent. Therefore, motorists need to know their vehicles to proactively adjust their driving to suit adverse weather conditions like heavy rains.

Now, caution from the experts

Firstly, take your time in driving to avoid hydroplaning/aquaplaning. Hydroplaning mostly occurs when a car is moving too fast on a wet surface, causing the car tires to ride on the thin layer of water instead of griping on the surface of the road. This usually causes skidding, leading to loss of steering control.

The key here is to drive slowly in adverse weather conditions and just in case your vehicle starts skidding, just steer in the direction you want your car to move with both hands firmly gripping the steering wheels and avoid slamming on your brakes which can interfere with the car’s already precarious balance.

Secondly, be alert to your surroundings. Although hazards are meant for when a car has stopped or broken down at the side of the road, it is not unlawful in our part of the world to have the hazard sign on during rains; as this has become the accepted norm.

However, this also poses a risk as it is difficult to detect the intentions of vehicles ahead; and drivers are then unable to decipher when a motorist intends to stop or make a turn hence the need for optimum focus. This also brings us to our next CAUTION; do not follow cars too closely. This precaution gives motorists time to react to traffic especially when following buses and large trucks. These large vehicles due to their big tires tend to splash more water which might obstruct a driver’s vision. Remember to put your fog lights on or have your high beam on to ensure your visibility to other motorists.

Thirdly, avoid driving on flooded roads. A road is deemed to be flooded when you cannot see the road markings. Not only is a motorist susceptible to losing control on such a road; but also run the risk of water entering your engine, causing it to stall or more so causing engine damage. If you absolutely must, it is ideal to follow in the tracks of the vehicle ahead or to keep to the middle of the road as floodwater tend to gather at the sides of the road.

Word of caution; if you do not trust yourself to drive in a downpour; find a safe place to park until the rain stops.

The Author, Janice Osei-Essah Anderson, is a Communications Expert and a Managing Partner of Andcorp Autos, a fully owned Ghanaian automobile company.
Columnist: Janice Osei-Essah Anderson