Friday, May 28, 2021 was a day I hated myself. It was a day I had regrets also. The hatred and regrets were no one’s fault but mine for not trusting the guidance of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency before hitting the road. If you are a resident of the Federal Capital Territory and was on the road during the evening rush hour on the said day, I am sure you would agree with me.
On that fateful day, I left my office for the Friday church service to celebrate with children who were celebrating their week. Just as the service was ending, the heavens opened up. To avoid the inconveniences and risk of driving in the rain especially at night, I hurriedly left the church without the usual pleasantries only to be caught by the heavy rain less than a kilometer from the church.
Driving on that day was indeed difficult. The first reason was because of poor visibility. The second was because of the bad driving habits, poor usage of headlights especially from Sport utility vehicles with their height advantage over saloon cars among others. Despite these difficulties, there was a comic but sad sight of being caught in the heavy rains.
In my struggle to maneuver through the rains and bad driving by some road users, it was relieving seeing multiple cars pulling over especially those who despite their poor learning skills would insist on driving to show off their new car acquisition. There were however some who pulled over because of poor eyesight caused by their stubbornness to drive without prescribed eye glass.
The few like me who dared the blessing from above were compelled to comply with the common sense speed rule that the Federal Road Safety advocates. In all of the difficulties encountered on that day, it was a delight to see the Kubwa highway free of the usual traffic gridlock which has become a common sight in the Federal Capital Territory.
It was however awful seeing multiple vehicles involved in near misses and minor as well as serious crashes with just a few found cooling off by the drains. The story in the other parts of the country was almost similar but the simple truth was that the rains are here and we need to take necessary precautions to avoid road traffic crashes and possible deaths.
Driving in the rain, according to the Revised Highway Code is more difficult and hazardous. This week, I intend to run this material again as a guide to both new and old drivers starting with the result of Thomas Olson and Michael Sivak research conducted in 1988 which found out that the amount of light required to see at night doubles every thirteen years.
The research notes that, at 20years of age, you need 100percent 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 headlights on. You must learn to turn your headlights on even if it is only misty.The idea is to increase and improve your visibility as well as other drivers ability to see your car on the road.
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.This driving style 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 which was dealt with in detail in other writeups.
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 rainy 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 re-gain a safe distance. If you are driving in very wet weather, you may find that your vehicle begins to aquaplane; ie, slide.
Hydroplaning occurs when water builds up between the tyres and the road and makes the steering feel light. Hydroplaning is a most common car road traffic crash which happens in the rain when drivers lose control. When your car hydroplanes, calmly take your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction that the front of your car needs to go.
You must avoid making sudden turns or slamming on your brakes. Because of the risk of hydroplaning, you are advised to watch out for standing water when driving. This is because driving through standing water can cause hydroplaning and ultimate crash. When this happens,you are likely to lose traction and skid across the surface of the road. To avoid hydroplaning, you are advised to drive around places where water has collected by changing lanes or safely steering around such areas. Alternatively, you are advised to monitor weather conditions to determine if driving is a wise decision.
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.This requires you with your left hand to hold the steering at either the 9 or 10 o’clock position and hold the other side of the steering wheel at either the three or two o’clock position- derived from the clock hand positions. 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 a misty or dusty environment when it is more difficult to judge speed and distance. To overtake, never do so if you are in doubt.
Overtaking is a dangerous maneuver. 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.
Lastly, remember that your tyre connects the vehicle with the road; they are the part of the vehicle that has direct contact with the road. It is therefore important that you use good tyres and run a check on your tyre pressures with a quality tyre pressure gauge (not the abused/ overused roadside vulcanizer’s gauge). Such a check may reveal that at least one of your tires is incorrectly inflated. Very few vehicles, if any, will pass this test.
Incorrect tyre pressure is the major cause of tyre blowouts, sudden tyre failures and premature tyre wear. Incorrect tyre pressure is an invitation to disaster even if the tyres are brand new! It is a time bomb waiting for the right time to explode. The implication is that each time such a vehicle is driven; the occupants are facing grave danger without being aware of it. There are two types of incorrect tyre pressure. These are over-inflation and under-inflation which I hope to treat soon