1. Drive to the conditions
Easily the best thing you can do to minimise your chances of being involved in an incident. Simply reducing your speed during heavy rain increases your safety on all fronts-
- shorter braking distances
- decreased momentum
- reduced grip requirements
- less chance of aquaplaning, decreased effect from deep water/puddles
- more time to react to conditions
Speed signs are placed ahead of corners on most roads, indicating the maximum safe speed in good driving conditions. Consider driving well below the speeds on these yellow markers during bad conditions.
2. Pull over if necessary
If you find yourself in a storm of any kind and it really is getting too much, find a safe place to temporarily stop your vehicle away from oncoming traffic, along with any other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the storm passes. Leave your lights on and keep the engine running. In extreme weather these situations can be stressful so it is important to keep yourself and other occupants of the vehicle calm.
3. Inspect your tyres
As the old saying goes, your car is only as good as your tyres. Worn tread will still provide reasonable grip on a warm & dry road, but in wet & slippery conditions they are an accident waiting to happen. Grooves in tread patterns on tyres are designed to absorb water as wheels roll over water, which prevents aquaplaning. The issue with water is that it doesn’t compress, so, if there isn’t enough room in the grooves for the water, the tyres will lift off the road.
All tyres have wear indicators placed inside these grooves. Once the wear reaches these indicators, it’s time to replace your tyres. If you’re unsure on how to inspect your tyres, just drop into any tyre centre- most will provide this service for free.
4. Properly react to aquaplaning
There are times when no matter how safely you drive, your vehicle may end up aquaplaning- gliding over water on the road without traction. It’s important to drive a certain way when this happens to maximise your safety:
- Firstly recognise when this is happening. Your vehicle will feel as though the brakes are being lightly applied and may pull to one side. It is at this moment you need to react.
- Take your foot off the accelerator, do not slam on the brakes
- When you have regained control, continue at a reduced speed
- If you see a patch of water coming up, reduce your speed in advance by lifting your foot off the accelerator
5. Alter your driving routes
If you require travel through areas that are prone to flooding during wet weather, alter your planned route. If you are unable to avoid a flooded section of road, additional precautions must be taken.
6. Use extreme caution when approaching a flooded road
If you are confronted by a flooded road and no alternate routes are available, you may be able to cross if the water is shallow enough. Check the water depth before proceeding. Look for flood water depth markers. If there aren’t any nearby, proceed with extreme caution.
Use the bottom of your radiator fan blades as a benchmark. If the water is higher than that, it’s too deep and you should stop and turn around.
Should you decide to proceed, you risk causing damage to your car’s engine or radiator. This is because the fan will act as a propeller, sending water all over the electrical system. On top of that, the pressure of the water on the fan blades can bend or break the blades, causing damage to the radiator.
If it’s not too deep, proceed with caution, driving very slowly. Once you have passed through the water crossing on to dry land, apply light pressure to the brakes over the next 100 metres to help them dry out. After you’ve travelled about one kilometre, apply the brakes heavily a couple of times, just to make sure they are operating effectively – remember to check that the road is clear first. It’s also a good idea to check the underside of the engine for any debris that may be attached.
Finally, remember to dry out any wet carpets, mats and underfelt as a precaution against mould and rust.
7. Use low beam in fog
In most cases, especially in thick fog, you will have greater vision with your headlights on low beam. If your vehicle is fitted with fog lights, now is the time to switch them on. Just remember to turn them off once the fog as cleared, as it’s against the road rules to have them on during the day!
8. Replace your wiper blades
Wiper blades are a consumable item and should be replaced regularly. Try not to get caught out in a wet patch and get them replaced prior to the wet season beginning. Purchase good quality replacements to provide the best vision possible in the rain.
9. Use your demisters
A fogged windscreen can completely impair your vision while driving and this can occur quickly in some instances, especially if passengers clothing is wet. It’s important to know where the controls are for your demister so you can get rid of the mist quickly. Switching the air conditioner on hot will help dry the air out.
10. Park your vehicle undercover
Avoid unnecessary damage and keep your vehicle protected in a carport or garage whenever possible. Whilst water damage can occur during heavy rain, hailstones and falling trees or debris are the larger threat.
Below is a helpful link put together by the RAA, including simple safety checks on your vehicle as well as how to best react in wet road hazards.