11 tips to help you stay safe when driving in bad weather

A cold front can wreak havoc on the roads.
A cold front can wreak havoc on the roads.
Image: mrtwister / 123rf

With stormy weather set to make landfall soon, Auto & General Insurance is urging South Africans to remain vigilant and adopt a more proactive approach to avoid damage to property, injury and loss of life.

Ricardo Coetzee, Head of Auto & General Insurance, says: “South Africa is renowned for its mighty storms – often a beautiful display of nature’s power, but also bringing with it the risk of quickly escalating into a full-blown disaster. The reality is that many storm-related losses could be prevented through better awareness, good planning and smart, prompt reaction.”

Auto & General offers the following practical tips to stay safe in adverse weather conditions:

1: Good vehicle maintenance goes a long way

Make sure that your vehicle is in tip top shape and won’t let you down, even when the proverbial “high water” comes.

2: Check your weather App.

Always keep an eye on the weather forecast and look out for warnings of heavy rains and high winds. Avoid danger areas where possible.

3: When in doubt head for cover.

Where possible, park your car under cover and delay travelling until the storm has subsided. If you are caught in a heavy storm and you feel it’s not safe to drive, look for cover, pull over and/or seek shelter. This could include a covered car park, a petrol station or under a bridge. Don’t park under trees as there is a danger of falling branches/debris.

Take extreme care when pulling-over, put on your hazard lights, and don’t risk your safety or the safety of others by dashing madly for cover. Stay in your car and only leave the safety of your sheltered spot when the storm has passed.

4: Cars don’t swim

Motorists should not attempt to drive in flood conditions. Remember that just 15cm of moving water can knock you off your feet and water just 60cm deep can sweep a vehicle away. You also run the risk of flooding your vehicle’s air intake, which will stall the engine. Generally, if the water is deeper than the bottom of your doors or the bottom third of your wheels, it is not advisable to drive through it.

5: High alert for low-lying spots

Flash flooding often occurs when rivers flow over low-lying bridges. Avoid crossing bridges or roads next to rivers during heavy rains. If you do get stuck on a flooded road, switch to the lowest possible gear and proceed slowly.

6: Easy does it

If you approach a flooded spot at speed, it is advisable to take your foot off the accelerator and let your speed drop gradually. Never use the brakes suddenly because this may cause the car to skid or aquaplane.

7: Bail out

If your vehicle gets stuck during flooding, or starts to get washed away, rather abandon the vehicle and get to higher ground. It is dangerous to try to drive out of the water to safety.

8: Take care when you counter steer

One is prone to counter steer against the wind. An approaching vehicle can briefly block the wind and cause you to land up in the way of oncoming traffic.

9: Keep a firm grip

A strong gust of wind can throw you completely off course, so rather reduce speed and keep both hands on the steering wheel.

10: Know how to tow 

Make use of a vehicle that is big and strong enough for the load it must carry or tow. Also be cautious about how you load it – if it’s top heavy it will be very difficult to control in a strong wind. Remember to have a stabiliser installed for your trailer or caravan just for that extra peace of mind when towing on windy days

11: Keep your eyes open for obstacles

Be on the lookout for uprooted trees, branches and other objects lying in the road, especially when driving at night.


Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

X