As New Zealand moves well into the cold season it’s important to take extra care when driving. Wet weather conditions make driving difficult, and also mean you have to take extra care of your car’s maintenance.
If you have to drive often in bad weather (whether it’s raining, icy, snowing or just foggy), here are some tips to keep in mind so you can stay safe on the road this autumn and winter!
- Check your vehicle! It’s really important that your brakes, tyres, windscreen wipers, lights and steering are working well, especially in wet weather. Make sure you’re regularly checking your car to make sure it’s in good condition.
- Increase your following distance using the four-second rule. Roads are extra slippery when it’s wet, frosty or icy – this means it takes longer to stop.
- Keep an eye on visibility – it’s incredibly hard to see the road when the weather is bad and this increases the risks of crashing. Make sure your windows and mirrors are clean (and not fogged up!).
- If your car doesn’t have ABS brakes, don’t break too hard when it’s wet because your car may go into a dangerous skid. You should pump your brakes gently. If you do have ABS brakes, don’t pump the brakes but keep the pedal pressed down hard and steer out of trouble.
- Watch out for spray – even when it stops raining, approaching vehicles may spray water on your windscreen so make sure you have your windscreen wipers on in these cases.
- In foggy conditions, dip your headlamps. If you drive with full beam, the light will just reflect back on you. You can use fog lights when conditions are bad, but try to avoid rear fog lights unless conditions are very bad since they may distract drivers following you. Make sure you turn your fog lights off when driving conditions improve.
- Avoid surface flooding. The first reason for this is that you can’t tell how deep the water actually is – there could be hidden potholes that will damage or stop your vehicle. Another reason is that you might get your brake pads wet, which will stop them from working until they dry out. If you do get water inside your brake pads, pump your brakes to try to dry them out – tap them lightly repeatedly until they start responding. If they don’t, change gears and apply the handbrake to slow yourself down.
- The most important thing you can do is reduce speed! In bad weather conditions, even the speed limit may be too fast for the conditions. It’s really easy to lose control in wet conditions (especially if you have to brake suddenly), so make sure you slow down.
If you live somewhere where you get icy or snowy conditions, here are some specific tips to keep in mind:
- If your vehicle isn’t 4WD, it’s best to avoid driving in snow.
- If you do drive in the snow, increase your following distance and reduce your speed.
- Select a lower gear, or if your vehicle has an additional snow or ice setting, activate this.
- If the road you drive on experiences heavy snowfall may require snow chains. Make sure you have a set and know how to fit them.
- Avoid sudden braking or sharp turns to avoid entering a slide.
- If you get stuck in snow, don’t spin the wheels or rev the vehicle because this will just dig your vehicle further in. Slowly maneuver the vehicle lightly forwards and backwards to gently creep out.
- Watch out for black ice! Black ice can be hard to spot but can make you lose control suddenly. Make sure you drive slowly when conditions are bad so you aren’t taken by surprise.