Driving in North Queensland during the wet season requires extra vigilance to be able to contend with more than just the usual risks incurred while travelling on the road. Cyclones and torrential rain can cause strong winds, flooding, erosion and dangerous obstacles in the path of cars, which means drivers need to be more aware of their surroundings and speed than they would during fine weather.
Before heading off in the car this wet season, we recommend keeping these tips in mind.
Stay up-to-date with maintenance
Regular tune-ups for your car will support you to be a safe driver during dangerous conditions.
Most importantly, ensure that your tyres, windshield wipers, brakes and headlights are in good working order so that if you need to stop suddenly to avoid pooling water or a fallen branch, you can do so with ease and in a safe manner.
A general service will provide certainty that you’re on top of any issues that you may not have noticed and allow them to be managed before they become a more serious problem.
Visibility is one of the most important aspects of road safety – whether or not it’s the wet season.
It is crucial for other drivers or pedestrians to be able to see your position on the road, and you would expect the same level of courtesy and self-consciousness from them.
It is easy to stay visible – just ensure your lights are on during bouts of heavy rain and when it is dark, cloudy or foggy and keep your windows clear of condensation so you can see any hazards, vehicles or pedestrians around you.
Slow right down
During periods of heavy rain, it is recommended that drivers slow their vehicles down to around 30 – 40km/h.
Depending on the conditions, you may even need to go a bit slower; for example, if there is deep water running rapidly across the road or there is the threat of falling branches.
If it does not feel safe to drive at all, find a clear spot to pull over and stop completely until the conditions improve.
It is always safest to stay about 4 seconds behind the vehicle in front of yours if you are driving a regular car, or if you drive a heavy vehicle, you should keep around 8 seconds’ worth of distance between you and the next vehicle.
Give yourself more time
When it rains, more people drive. So, whether there’s just a light shower or heavy rain, you are inevitably going to be held up in excess traffic, which can lead to stress, which can lead to erratic driving and unsafe decision-making.
To avoid situations that can cause your blood to boil, plan ahead and factor in potential delays. That way, even if you do get stuck in a traffic jam or are delayed due to flooding or hazards on the road, you can still make it to your destination on schedule.
Keep an eye out
Damage caused by cyclones can make roads an incredibly dangerous place to be.
Motor vehicle accidents can be caused by seemingly innocuous things such as:
- puddles (which can turn out to be large potholes filled with water);
- obstacles such as fallen trees, boulders or power lines;
- erosion causing the road or path to fall away; and
- slippery roads that can make your car aquaplane.
It is always safer to err on the side of caution despite some of the hazards seeming small. Go slow and keep an eye out for even the most minor of threats.
You should also be sure to be on the lookout for pedestrians, especially when driving in densely populated, metropolitan areas where people may suddenly run across the road or car park to try to avoid the bad weather.
Finally, stay calm and focussed. Driving holds risks at the best of times, and the wet season only amplifies those dangers. Take a few deep breaths, don’t rush and think carefully before making decisions that can affect those around you, so you can get to your destination without trouble.