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Hazards of driving in the rain

This has been the case in Abuja and other parts of the country as the heavens daily pour down blessings from above. Remember that before…

This has been the case in Abuja and other parts of the country as the heavens daily pour down blessings from above. Remember that before the rains began pouring this year, a good portion of our national highways had been upgraded as promised by President Goodluck Jonathan. Remember also that the result of this improved road network is the increasing cases of speed related crashes. Today, I wish to focus on the hazards of driving in the rain. Always remember that there could be broken down vehicles or even slow moving vehicles with defective lighting system.  Also remember that your vehicle could suddenly develop a fault-tyre burst, brake failure, electrical system, just name it. There may even be a broken or fallen tree on the road.
Therefore, before you start out, ask yourself if that journey is really necessary?  If you are in the right state of mind to make the journey and confirm the minimum safety state of your vehicle. When it was last serviced? How good is your sight? What is the state of your tyres, wiper and windscreen? Never underestimate the dangers. Make sure your lights are working, your windscreen okay and your wiper is in perfect working condition.  Remember that the road is not your personal property. That you share the road with others especially heavy duty vehicles. These heavy duty vehicles usually require longer distances to stop and would require even more distances under the rain or bad weather conditions.
Rule number one would require that your knowledge of defensive driving techniques be brought to bear for your safety and others. You must always slow down, keep a safe distance from the vehicle before you and always be prepared to stop within your range of vision and avoid possible blind spots. Your overall stopping distance is the distance your car travels from the moment you realise you must break to the moment the vehicle stops. It is made up of thinking distance and braking distance. You must never get closer than the overall stopping distance. On wet roads, the gap should be much more. Stopping distances increases greatly with wet and slippery roads, poor brakes, bad tyres and tired drivers
Since visibility is blurred under bad weather driving, seeing and being seen is a must at such times. This is because about 80percent of driving information comes from visibility. Visibility influences the reaction time. Although motorists’ misbehaviour and natural influences can never be eliminated completely, enhancing safety can be achieved by creating visibility of obstacles especially during the rain .This is critical in the absence and adequacy of pavement markings that are reflective. Without such signs to guide a driver who may not be familiar with the road on which he is driving to, you must therefore use your lights, parking lights or head lamps to aid your visibility
In a research conducted in 1988 P. Olson and M. Sivak found out that the amount of light required to see at night doubles every thirteen years. That, at 20years of age, you need 100% of light to see, while at 33years, you will require twice the amount of light used to see at 20.The preponderant age of drivers on our roads would fall within the second category and most of these drivers within the context of our economy cannot rank among drivers on balanced diet. It therefore means that a good number of our drivers because of other factors peculiar to us would not even fit into the 1988 conclusions by Olson and Sivac. The vital lesson however is that we cannot play down the place of visibility. It is safe to drive with your light on when it is raining and at night. Anytime visibility is poor, endeavor to have your head lights on.
While we advise that we enhance our visibility, special care must be taken to avoid the typical Lagos driving of, kiss me I kiss you or hanging on to someone’s rear light which has the potential of leading you off course; therefore you must defensively keep a safe distance. It is also advisable that you use clean cloth soaked in soap to clean the particles that may have accumulated over time on your wiper to make it more effective. You must also learn to control your speed. You are advised to adopt the common sense speed limit by adjusting your speed to suit the weather, your vehicle, your capability and competence and your age which we have said affects your sight or the amount of light required. Common sense therefore dictates that speed should be lower when weather is bad or roads defective.eg-on wet or slippery roads or when the view is unclear from smoky exhausts of other vehicles, harmattan dust or in foggy weather.
Critical to driving at any time is speed. It is identified as a critical factor and that is why good driving demands that we obey speed limits at all times especially during bad weather such as the raining season. When the road is wet, the chances of your vehicle gliding are very slim. Also vehicles in front of you, especially large or speeding vehicles may raise a film of dirty water to further reduce visibility. Your wipers must always work
When it is raining or the road is wet, leave at least double the normal stopping distance. if you are following a vehicle at a safe distance and another vehicle pulls into the gap you have left, drop back  to regain a safe distance. If you are driving in a very wet weather, you may find that your vehicle begins to aquaplane; ie, slide. This is because water builds up between the tyres and the road and makes the steering feel light
Now let’s talk about steering handling at all times, including during the rains. The vogue on our major roads including the cities is to find a good number of drivers who hold the steering with one hand, eat, or phone, with the other. Some others would choose to rest their right arm on the front passengers head rest even under the rain. The correct posture is to hold your steering wheel with both hands except when shifting gear lever or giving signals. The recommended way is to hold the steering on nearly opposite sides in a position termed “ten-to-two” derived from the clock hand positions at ten minutes to two o’clock, that is, 01.50 or 13.50 hours. It is a traffic offence to drive with one hand only
Driving we have noted is all about visibility. You must be particularly careful at dusk and in misty or dusty environment when it is more difficult to judge speed and distance. You must never overtake if you are in doubt. Overtaking is a dangerous manoeuvre. Ask yourself if you really need to overtake. Learn to signal in good time; ensure it is clear and safe and that it is legal for you to overtake. Avoid overtaking at the crest of a hill, slope, built up arrears, corner, bend, narrow bridge or a bus stop. Do not overtake where the road narrows, or where your action would force another vehicle to swerve or brake suddenly, or if you would have to cross double solid white lines, or if the solid line of the centre lines is nearer you.

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