With the wet season falling on North Queensland between November and March, it is important to take extra safety precautions while driving. You may think it is just slippery roads you need to be careful of, but the wet season also brings with it strong winds, flash floods and existing floodwaters that you need to be mindful of, even if you are driving in areas you think you know extremely well.
Here are some tips for optimising your safety on the road during the wet season.
Distance yourself and slow right down
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is how to keep our distance from others! The same goes for driving in poor weather conditions, so if you are stuck in torrential rain, gale-force winds or need to drive across pooled or running water on the road, be sure to do so at a speed of around 30 to 40km/h and don’t drive too close to the car in front of or beside you.
The best way to judge a safe distance is by travelling about 4 seconds behind the car in front for regular cars, and 8 seconds for heavy vehicles. When driving with a trailer or caravan hitched to your vehicle, you should allow a further 4 seconds of travel time per 3 metres of length of your caravan or trailer.
If you are able to pull over and stop to wait while bad weather passes, this is an even better solution.
Be mindful of damage and hidden dangers
During the wet season, floodwaters can rise over a matter of days or mere minutes if flash flooding occurs. These conditions can all cause damage to the roads and their surrounding areas. Conditions can also be far worse than they appear, such as the depth of what may appear to be a puddle but is actually a large dip that could bog or eventually waterlog your car.
If a road looks flooded, you should avoid driving across it and you should bear in mind that a road that simply looks slippery can actually cause you to aquaplane – an event that occurs due to water build-up stopping the road and tyre from making contact.
Account for longer travelling times
A combination of driving more slowly, avoiding potential hazards and backed up traffic in areas where damage has occurred to the roads means you are likely to require more time to get to your destination. Instead of stressing about being late, which can lead to less concentration, erratic driving and speeding, plan your time well and leave earlier than usual so you can drive sensibly and arrive on time.
Stress can be heightened during bouts of poor weather and this can lead to inpatient driving behaviours, which can cause accidents.
It is important that drivers remain on high alert, with their minds set to the task at hand, to avoid hitting other cars or pedestrians. If you are nervous due to the conditions or frustrated because you are stuck in traffic, take a few deep breaths and remember that you are not the only one experiencing these conditions.
Keep your lights on
Making yourself visible to other drivers and pedestrians is just as crucial for your safety as it is for the safety of others.
Often during the wet season, heavy rain, darkness and flying hazards can decrease your visibility, so it important that you keep your headlights on, ensure that your windows are not fogged up and that debris is removed so that you can see exactly where you are driving, and others can see you approaching.
Keep up-to-date with servicing your car
While it becomes essential during the wet season, road safety is important throughout the whole year, so you should always make sure you have your car serviced at regular intervals. A full service will pick up on any problems before they get too big, but you should also keep an eye (or ear!) out for any other specific issues that are bothering you, too. At the very least the windshield wipers, brakes, tyres and headlights should be in good working order.
By following the above tips and tricks, you can lower your risk of a road accident during the wet season and help to keep yourself and others using the roads safe.