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Heavy storm lashes the Cape: Top tips for driving in wet weather

2018-06-02 17:18

Image: iStock

A cold front has lashed the Western Cape causing heavy flooding, rockslides and damage to property in Cape Town.

The South African Weather Service reported 72mm of rain in Kirstenbosch and 49mm in Ceres, as a powerful cold front passed over Cape Town.

As winter hits South Africa, adverse weather condition can be expected throughout South Africa.

We list ways motorist can cope with wet-weather conditions as well important checks to perform before heading off on any trip this winter.

13 tips for driving in the rain: list by the AA

1 Always turn on your vehicle’s headlights in wet weather. 
2 In heavy rain use the brighter (rear fog lights) setting for your car’s tail lights. 
3 Make sure your wiper blades are in good condition and do a clean sweep. 
4 Do not allow the inside of your car's windows to mist up. Switch on front and rear screen demisters and your aircon - yes, an aircon dries the air and removes mist almost instantly.
5 Check your tyre tread: the legal minimum is 1mm but for safety's sake make sure it's treble that.
6 Worn shock-absorbers don't keep the rubber hard down on the road; no road contact = no ABS, no grip and very little braking.
7 Cloudy and rain = poor visibility. Take extra care when overtaking - and remember not all drivers coming towards you will have their headlights on.
8 Adjust speed and following distance; at least six seconds to the car ahead. Ensure you can stop within the visible area ahead. 
9 Avoid abrupt acceleration, braking and steering which can result in a skid.
10 Don't drive through deep water. It could damage your car and possibly cost you your life.
11 If you have no option but to drive through such water, then drive slowly in a low gear, holding the steering wheel steady.
12 After driving in heavy rain allow your brakes to dry - especially if your vehicle has drum brakes. 
13 If you experience car/bike trouble turn on your hazard lights and try to move completely off the road. If possible, ensure that you have a reflective warning triangle to erect some distance behind your vehicle.

Important vehicle checks for driving in wet conditions: list by Europ Assistance 

1 Tyre tread: 

Image: iStock

One of the most important checks motorists can conduct is the condition of their motor vehicle’s tyres. A tyre tread below the legal limit of 1mm, or level with the tyre treat depth indicator, significantly increases the likelihood of an accident occurring - especially in wet weather. This could also result in an insurance claim being rejected should the insurer determine that the cause of an accident was a direct result of poor tyre maintenance. 

2 Visibility factors: 

Image: iStock

When driving in wet, rainy or misty conditions, good visibility is paramount. Something as simple as replacing worn windscreen wiper blades can drastically reduce the chances of an accident occurring. Good wiper blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Wiper blades that leave streaks or miss spots are worn and need to be replaced.  

Car lights should also be in proper working order at all times, but the lights are especially important during the winter months, as it is the only means to increase a vehicle’s visibility on dark roads. Any burnt out or dim light bulbs should be replaced immediately.

3 Car battery strength:

Image: iStock

One of the most common causes of motor vehicle breakdowns in winter is a weak battery. Due to the colder weather conditions, a vehicle’s engine requires more battery power to start-up. Motorists should check the strength of the car battery on a regular basis and replace it if necessary in an effort to avoid the inconvenience of an unplanned breakdown.

4 Brakes:

Image: iStock

One of the most important components of a motor vehicle is the functionality of its brakes. Have the brakes checked by a motor mechanic for any wear and tear to ensure that the vehicle has the best chance of stopping in wet or icy conditions. When a road is wet and slippery, it takes the vehicle somewhat longer to come to a complete stop – which is critical in avoiding a potential collision. Motorists should listening out for any metal-to-metal or squeaking sounds when applying the brakes and if the brakes do make these sounds, they need to be replaced as soon as possible.

5 Emergency driver assistance:

Image: iStock

South Africans need to ensure that they have emergency driver assistance in place and have emergency numbers on hand in case of an accident or breakdown – especially as rainy weather increases motorists’ chances of incidents. These type of services may already be in place through existing providers (e.g. as a value-added benefit with an insurance policies), or through banks or medical aid – so consumers are advised to review their policies or consult their providers.


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