Road-safety experts give advice on what you should remember when driving in the rain
After the constant roasting that we were subjected to during the summer months, the rainy season is upon us once again.
Unlike driving under the bearing sun – where the biggest problem you would likely have had was how to turn your car’s air conditioner into a snow machine – driving while the heavens pelt water at you presents a whole host of challenges that require maximum awareness and added care. Fast Times talked to Philippine Global Road Safety Partnership Secretary-General Alberto Suansing and A-1 Driving School Assistant Vice-President Aljun Garcia to find out what you need to do when driving in the rain. Here are their pointers:
1. Make sure your vehicle is roadworthy.
Frankly, the succeeding tips would be pointless if your car is a screaming metal death trap. Perhaps the most important component that should be in good condition is your tires, which have grooves (called tread) that channel the water on the road away, thus giving you more grip. Although the law unfortunately doesn’t prescribe a minimum tread depth, the rule of thumb in the United States and Europe is that a tire’s tread should be no less than 1.6 millimeters deep.
Suansing said it’s also important to check all your wipers (even the rear wiper, if you have one) and lights so that you would not only be able to see around you, but also be visible to other motorists. Garcia, meanwhile, said A-1 teaches students the BLOWFATCH vehicle checklist, which stands for:
• B – Battery, Brakes, Belts
• L – License, Lights, Leaks
• O – Oil
• W – Water, Wipers, Washers
• F – Fuel, Fluids
• A – Accessories
• T – Tires, Tools
• C – Cleanliness, Car Registration
• H – Hoses, Horn
2. Slow down and drive smoothly.
Both Suansing and Garcia said driving too fast in the wet, even if your car is in tip-top shape, will make you more susceptible to hydroplaning, which is a phenomenon where the treads in your tires are so inundated with water that these can no longer grip the road. Put another way, it’s like driving on ice. They also said driving smoothly is vital in wet-weather driving, as abrupt changes to the steering, brakes and throttle could cause you to lose control.
“In the event that your car does break traction, don’t panic,” Suansing said. “Don’t slam on the brakes immediately. Instead, gently apply the brakes until your car slows down. And if you start spinning out, steer in the direction of the skid until your car straightens out.”
Garcia also said if the rain is too heavy, it would be better to simply pull over and wait for it to pass.
3. Keep your distance.
Garcia said when driving in the rain, you should increase your time distance to the vehicle in front from the typical four seconds when driving in the dry to six to nine seconds so that you have enough time to slow down. Remember that even if your car has good tires and has standard anti-lock brakes, stopping distances are significantly longer on wet roads.
4. No flashers!
Both Suansing and Garcia said it is imperative that you don’t use your hazard lights (or flashers) to make yourself visible to other motorists while driving in heavy rain. Garcia said keeping these on means other motorists won’t know whether or not you are changing lane.
“You can make it easier for other drivers to see you by driving with your headlights on,” he said. “In A-1 Driving, we have a safety policy when it starts to rain: Wipers On, Headlights On. Hazard lights should only be used for stalled vehicles that may need assistance.”
As Fast Times wrote in July 2015, one viable alternative to hazard lights is a rear fog light, which is a bright red light that can pierce through hazy conditions and make you visible on the road.