I met Franklin Uzoh(not real name)about three years ago. Frank, as he is fondly called by his close associates, was a ‘recalcitrant road user’. In a layman description, Frank was a perpetual law breaker with a disdain for road safety rules. He was a speed freak, a risk taker among dangerous maneuvering behavior he indulged in while on the wheels.
All that, however, changed on the day, mercy saved him. He was driving, according to the report, during heavy rain and threw decency to the wind despite warnings to defer his drive until the weather was clement. He ignored safety counsel and boom, set out on his dangerous mission and crashed onto a parked vehicle that luckily had no occupant. The car was written off while he sustained numerous injuries and multiple fractures. Today, Frank is glued to a wheel chair for life.
For the sake of averting this kind of tragedy, I have chosen to re-run this piece on driving in the rain. When I heard the story, I believed that Frank’s survival was a fallout of his faith is God. That is why I wish to start by reminding us about what the Holy Book says about Faith.’’ Faith, the Bible says, cometh by hearing and hearing the word of God. The same Bible says ‘’my people perish for the lack of knowledge’’. Similarly, chapter 15:55 of the Koran says ‘’but remind, for reminding benefits the believers,’’ Both the holy Bible and the glorious Koran emphasise the need to be knowledgeable.
A couple of years ago, someone dear and inspiring was left crippled by a driver who disregarded the simple rules of being cautious while driving in the rain, especially on unfamiliar roads. What looks like a small mistake caused this lady not just a career but her mobility while the driver escaped without a scratch. Just recently another person who I know lost his life in a crash, which occurred while being driving in the rain. These two painful tragedies, Frank’s survival and perhaps many more which we probably don’t not know about are the reason for reproducing this piece.
Remember that I had shared the story of a pathetic and tragic death of a mother and a wife in a road traffic crash which occurred along Abuja Airport road. The mother’s details I didn’t know, neither the husband’s. However, her death, like that of most other tragedies often highlighted on my weekly piece, was caused by a driver’s error. The woman if you recall, had flown from the United Kingdom to Abuja without a hitch. On arrival, she called the husband who in turn, perhaps due to another pressing engagement, requested a taxis driver to pick her up. Sometime in the course of 45 minutes’ drive from the Abuja Airport, the driver, on noticing a trailer, instinctively tried to avoid it, but unfortunately crashed into the trailer with the woman and died. The driver was injured and alive. The first question I asked was: was it raining? How fast was he going at the point of the crash? On what lane was he? The speed (left lane) or slow lane, (right lane)? Was the trailer stationary? How bad was visibility? Unfortunately, no one was there to reply me as the woman dead and the driver hospitalized.
These questions and many more are the reason for the this piece as we daily experience heavy downpour across the country. Driving, according to the Revised High Code, is more difficult and hazardous when visibility is blurred by weather conditions such as mist, fog, harmattan haze or other related factors.
Remember that even before the raining season began, some of the roads were either being repaired or were inadequate. Remember also that there could be broken down vehicles or even slow moving vehicle with defective lightening system. Remember also that your vehicle could suddenly develop a fault, a tyre could burst, brake failure, electrical system could malfunction; any fault can develop. There may even be fallen trees on the road.
Before you start out ask yourself if that journey is really necessary? Are you in the right state of mind to make the journey? Also 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, wipers and windscreen? Never underestimate the dangers. Make sure your light are working, your windscreens okay and your wipers are in perfect working conditions. Remember that the road is not your personal property; you share the road with others, amongst which are heavy duty vehicles. These heavy duty vehicles usually require longer distance to stop and would require even more distance 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 realize you must brake 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 distance increase greatly with wet and slippery roads, poor brakes, bad tryes and tired drivers.
Since there is diminished visibility during bad weather, whilst driving, seeing and being seen is a must at such times. This is because 80percent of driving information comes from visibility. Visibility influences the reaction time. Although, motorist, misbehaviour and natural influences cannot be eliminated completely, safety is enhanced by creating visibility of obstacles especially when it’s raining. This is critical in the absence of adequate pavement markings that reflect. Without such sighs to guide a driver who may not be familiar with the road on which he is driving, headlights must be used to aid visibility
I must not miss out a critical rule which dwells on the issue of excessive speeding by most drivers. Speeding is regarded as the biggest causative factor in a crashes. The report by World Health Organisation and the World Bank highlights this truth yet road users indulge in this even when it rains. The report notes that an increase in average speed, is directly related both to the likelihood of a crash occurring and to the severity of the consequences of the crash. For example, every one percent increase in mean speed, it notes, produces a four percent increase in the fatal crash risk and a three percent increase in the serious crash risk.
It further states that the death risk for pedestrians hit by car front rises rapidly; 4.5 times from 50 km/h to 65 km/h. In car-to-car side impacts, the fatality risk for car occupants is 85percent at 65 km/h. These revealed truths should guide you to adopt common sense speed when it rains which at the same time becoming a sticker for lane discipline by ensuring you stay on the slow lane always