North Queensland’s wet season brings more than just slippery roads - there is also the threat of strong winds and flooding, which means extra precautions must be taken when driving, even for short distances.
Here are our top tips for staying safe on the road this wet season.
Have your car serviced
You could be the safest driver with the quickest reflexes, but unless your car is running in good order an accident could still occur.
Tyres, windshield wipers, brakes and headlights are the most important aspects of your car to have checked, but an overall service will ensure any faults you may have missed or problems that were imminent can be caught before they become a bigger problem.
The quality of the roads can deteriorate quickly due to heavy rain, floods and cyclones and conditions could actually be worse than they appear. What may seem like a small puddle on the road could, in fact, be a large pothole filled with water.
Be extra vigilant on roads you are unfamiliar with and do not rule out changes to routes you travel on every day – damage in the form of erosion, fallen trees and power lines may have occurred and water may now be flowing across a road where it wasn’t just hours earlier.
In Queensland, floodwaters can rise over days, while flash floods can occur in minutes. You should never attempt to drive across a flooded road, and you should be aware that a road that may only look slightly slippery can cause you to aquaplane (where the road and tyre do not make contact at all due to water build-up).
It is just as important for drivers to be visible to pedestrians and other drivers as it is for hazards to be visible to drivers. During bouts of poor weather, ensure your lights are on and that your windows are not fogged up so that you can remain as alert as possible.
Slow down and keep your distance
When you are caught in extreme weather conditions or come across water running across the road, ensure you slow right down to around 30 – 40km/h. Better yet, pull over and stop completely if you do not feel confident driving and it is safe to do so.
When you are driving, make sure you keep more distance between you and the car in front than you would in fine weather. For a regular car, you should be travelling about 4 seconds behind the car in front and for heavier vehicles, the distance between you and the vehicle in front should be around 8 seconds. If you have a trailer or caravan hitched to your vehicle, you should be travelling even slower; allowing an extra 4 seconds of travel time per 3 metres of length of your caravan or trailer.
Plan your time
No matter how heavy the rain, you will ultimately be slowed down simply due to more cars being on the road. The heavier the rain and the more hazards you come across, the longer it will take you to arrive at your destination. Be conscious of this fact and be sure to leave earlier than usual so that you can comfortably arrive on time without speeding and factoring in any detours you may need to take in case of flooded roads or fallen trees.
Keep your cool
Bad weather does not only mean more cars on the road, it also means that pedestrians who are braving the outdoors may make irrational decisions or act erratically when crossing roads to dodge the rain, so drivers must be on high alert to mitigate these movements.
Always remain calm while driving and be patient of traffic jams and longer wait times. Be mindful of pedestrians and remember that everyone is experiencing the same delays and poor conditions as you are.