Safe driving tips for 'very disturbed' conditions with heavy rain and gale force winds in the coming week
With Met Eireann warning of 'very disturbed' conditions with heavy rain and gale force winds in the coming week -Here are some simple tips on how to stay safe on the roads at this time of year.
- Check your tires and windshield wipers - It’s a good idea to check your tires before taking the wheel in the driving rain. To ensure good grip, the treads should ideally have a depth of at least 2 mm. Driving with treads under 1.5 mm deep could be dangerous (it’s also illegal) because they probably won’t remove enough water, especially if it’s raining heavily. Windshield wipers should also be in perfect working order to ensure the clearest possible view of the road in all driving conditions. Don’t forget that they should ideally be changed every year.
- Keep a safe distance - Visibility can often be reduced during a heavy rain. You should try to make sure that you’re always visible to other road users while also keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front. In any case, you need to make sure you leave enough braking distance to stop safely in the event of an emergency. As the car in front passes a fixed point, such as a sign or a bridge, start to say 'only a fool breaks the 2-second rule' at a normal rate. The phrase takes about 2 seconds to say, so if you pass the same fixed point before you've finished saying it, you're too close and should leave more room.
- Use your fog lights - If visibility is very low, it’s time to switch on your fog lights. When night starts to fall but conditions aren’t especially bad, don’t forget to switch your headlights to full beam, being careful not to dazzle users travelling in the opposite direction.
- Keep cool if aquaplaning occurs - The next time you find yourself behind the wheel of car in the rain, be sure to disable cruise control. If you end up hydroplaning, your cruise control can make it a lot more dangerous. Cruise control is a great feature, especially on those long road trips, but make sure you keep an eye out for wet roads and rain. Wet roads are dangerous because the rainwater causes the oil and grease on the road to rise up to the top of the water. This creates a slippery, ice-like condition on the road, but it can get much worse if your tires can't tread through the water fast enough. When that happens, it's called Hydroplaning, and it can happen at speeds as low as 50 kph. If the vehicle starts aquaplaning, never slam on the brakes. You should wait until the tires are back in contact with the ground before you start braking, gently, and then correct your trajectory. You should avoid any sharp, sudden movements, both with the brakes and the steering wheel.
- Stay stable in wind - As well as the dark and the rain, wind can be another danger when driving during the rainy season. In strong winds, keep a firm grip on the steering wheel (two hands are more important than ever) to stop your vehicle from drifting off the road. The same goes when overtaking other vehicles in high winds, especially high-sided vehicles such as trucks.