How to stay safe in the rain: Top tips for wet weather driving

Published on: 23 October 2014

The South African Insurance Association says motor insurance claims trends show that driver behaviour contributes to more than 60% of road accidents. This means that how you drive has a direct influence on your safety – and that of others. 

By taking extra care and adapting your driving behaviour to the conditions you face, you can make your journey safer. Apply these tips to improve your wet weather driving skills.  

Stay roadworthy

When it rains, slippery roads and decreased visibility increase the chances of an accident. Make sure your headlights, taillights, brake lights and indicators are working properly. Check that your windscreen wipers are in good condition; replace the blades if frayed, brittle (brittle blades make a distinctive noise as they sweep across a dry or damp windscreen) or damaged.  Remember to turn on headlights in the rain to increase your chances of seeing and being seen in wet conditions.

Slow down

Slowing down and increasing your following distance during wet weather is critical. If you encounter a sudden downpour, take your foot off the accelerator and let the car’s speed drop gradually. Never use the brakes suddenly, as this can cause the car to skid. Avoid making sudden lane changes, as can increase the possibility of aquaplaning – when your tyres ‘float’ on a layer of water, breaking their contact with the road surface.

Mind the bends

Anticipation is key when approaching a bend, more so in the rain. Slow down before the corner and engage a lower gear, particularly with sharp bends. Your speed should be at its slowest as you enter the bend and both your hands should be on the steering wheel, with gentle acceleration through the curve. This slow-in/fast-out technique gives you the most control.

Middle of the road

Whenever possible, drive in the middle lane when it's raining. Water pools more in the outside lanes because of limited drainage, making the road surface more dangerous.

Be careful of other cars to the rear and in blind spot areas as they are especially difficult to see through rain-spattered windows.

The deep end

Attempting to drive through deep water can cause damage to your car’s electronics; it is also impossible to gauge just how deep a puddle is before you go through it. If you have to drive through a puddle, go especially slowly and turn around or reverse if the water reaches the bottom of your car doors. If you get submerged too deeply, your engine will stall and water might enter your engine through your air intake, forcing you to replace it.

Never drive over bridges flooded by moving water.

After the rain

When the rain has passed, make sure to test your brakes - particularly if the downpour was heavy. Water can have a brief effect on disc brakes; braking a little (when safe to do so) quickly dispels water on the surface of the discs, allowing them to function as normal.

While insurance helps sort out the aftermath when it comes to car accidents, prevention is always far better than cure. Remember that rain does not cause car accidents – people driving in the rain do. By taking note of these easy tips, you can become a better wet weather driver, reducing the risk of accident to yourself, your family and other road users.