Greetings to you all. It has been long since we last met in this column. As we are in the rainy season, it is paramount that we set our minds ready to meet the driving challenges awaiting us in this period. This article will focus on the challenges that we might face when driving during the wet period that may trick us into accidents.

 

Always be a defensive driver

Have you ever been involved in an accident? How often are you involved? If yes, ask yourself this question: is there anything I could reasonably have done to prevent that accident? If there were one or more reasonable options available to prevent the accident, then that accident was a preventable accident.

Defensive drivers should avoid the occurrence of preventable accidents. Only non-preventable accidents may occur in some circumstances but, it is very important to note that an accident is a total loss unless something useful is learnt from it. Whether preventable or non-preventable, killing yourself or another person in an accident is a total loss because life is never replaceable. If you survive the accident, the trauma of killing another person is a life eyesore.

The loss of property in an accident, hospital bill, civil suits and other costs emanating from an accident are sometimes unbearable. It is therefore good to take heed of such columns like this one and make yourself a learning being to stay long on the road.

Some drivers are more costly than others in the way they drive. Look at the vehicle that you usually drive. If we were to write the names of drivers who caused a dent, scratch or damage on that part of the vehicle, how would the vehicle be looking like in relation to your driving errors?

Whether it is rainy or not the driver’s mindset should always be in a defensive mood. That means setting your mind to driving to prevent the occurrence of any accident in spite of the incorrect actions or others and the presence of adverse driving conditions. There are at least six driving conditions that might adversely affect our driving. These conditions are light, weather, road, traffic vehicle and you the driver.

Today we will focus on weather condition and concentrate on rain as it adversely affect us as we approach the rainy season.

 

Early rains

More often we realise that there is a significant rise in road accident statistics at the onset of the rainy season. This does not necessarily require heavy rains to cause accidents. Let’s look at what really happens. Throughout the dry season different types of vehicles use the road surface with ease. Some vehicles drop some lubricants such as oil, grease and even fuel on the road surface especially on tarred surfaces. When the first rains come, the stained road surface becomes more slippery than any other period of the year. The driver should have this in mind so as to adjust speed and braking distances. Usually pile-up kind of accidents occur during this period. The rule is break in plenty of time.

 

Heavy rains

Heavy rains affect the driver’s visibility hence it requires adjustment in road speed to conform to the prevailing weather conditions. Some drivers fail to use their controls like windscreen wipers to adjust the speed of the wipers in relation to the amount of rain pour. We usually close our windows when it is raining. There is no problem with closing the windows as long as we realise how it may adversely affect us and how to rectify the problem. The longer you take driving a vehicle with windows closed, moist air accumulates within the vehicle. You may realise the front and rear screens accumulating some moisture making visibility difficult. More often we see drivers wiping the screen with their hands to regain visibility. Many drivers have lost control of the vehicle in this process.

A good driver has to be familiar with the controls of his/her vehicle so as to use then when they are required. There is no need to wipe the screen using your hands. You simply switch on your fan blower and direct the air to the windscreen. That will dry all the vapour settling on the screen. As for the rear screen, you will realise that there are some brown lines that run across the rear screen. Those are electrical elements used to demist the rear screen. You just need to switch on the rear demister switch in the control and instrument cluster. The switch allows you to electrically heat the rear screen and it clears the vapour.

 

Wading

Wading is a term used to describe driving through water. In some city centers where there is poor drainage, sometimes after a heavy rain, water flows along the streets. It is the duty of the driver to have good judgement of the depth of water whether running or stagnant, in relation to his/her vehicle clearance. In most cases drivers get stuck after their vehicles have sucked in water into the combustion chambers and stalls the engine.

If that occurs at an intersection or at the middle of the road, it may case congestion or an accident. A good driver should be aware of the ground clearance of his/her vehicle, know where the vehicle takes up its air from [air intake valve]. Some vehicles like Toyota Hiace trucks take up air from underneath the vehicle while others have their air intake openings on the sides of the vehicle [eg Defender] or above the cab.

We have heard of many drivers washed away trying to cross over flooded rivers. Usually running water is not powerful at the river banks. The power increases as you get deeper into the river. Never cross a bridge when you cannot see the edges of the bridge even if you have good local knowledge of the area. You never know, maybe the bridge or part of it has been swept away.

If the ground clearance of your car cannot allow the water to flow past the vehicle through the part of the vehicle, never attempt to cross because as you move across the bridge, running water may accumulate on the upstream side of your vehicle thereby pushing your vehicle off course. The rule is never venture where you cannot see and if in doubt hold back.

 

For today we will end here. In the next issue we will look at highway driving and off-road driving. Wishing you safe driving as we enter the rainy season.

 

Chief Superintendent Ncube is the Staff Officer Harare Driving School.

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