Woman looking out the window on a rainy day

Safe Driving Tips For Wet And Wintery Conditions

Winter means darker and wetter days which is a dangerous combination on the road.

By Shell on Jul. 14, 2020

Compromised vision means less chance of identifying potentially critical situations. Less grip on the road makes it harder to steer or brake out of trouble.

So how do you minimise the risks? We asked Mark Lane, managing director of driver training and education organisation Murcotts Driving Excellence, for his top recommendations.

1. Get your tyres right

Tyres are the critical link between your car and the road. If they’re worn or incorrectly pressurised, you simply won’t have the grip to get out of a tight spot. “Tread depth and pressure are critical to safe wet-weather driving,” says Lane. “The legal minimum tread depth in Australia is 1.5mm – correct tread depth ensures maximum water is expelled from beneath the tyre and reduces the risk of aquaplaning.”

Tyre pressures for most average-sized vehicles should be kept at 36psi for normal suburban driving, including freeways, or 40psi for higher sustained speeds such as regional driving. If you drive a larger vehicle, check your handbook for the manufacturer’s recommendations.

2. See and be seen

If your windscreen wipers are worn, they won’t clear water efficiently and you won’t be able to see properly. “Windscreen wipers should generally be changed every six to 12 months,” says Lane. To stop road grime or bugs smearing your windscreen in light rain, fill your washer with a purpose-made cleaning additive rather than just water. Use your car’s demisting system to keep your windows clear – with the air-conditioning on for maximum effectiveness – and make sure your headlights and other lighting are functioning correctly. “Not just for your own vision,” says Lane, “but so you’re visible on the road to other drivers as well.”

3. Look up and stay back

A wet road means longer stopping distances. A simple way to beef up your safety margin is to increase your distance to the vehicles ahead. “Both from a visibility and car-dynamics point of view, you need to leave a bigger gap,” says Lane. “Moving from a two- to three-second gap to, say, a three- to four-second gap will open up your peripheral vision and allow for that extra stopping distance.”

4. Soften your driving inputs

A car’s tentative grip on the road in the wet can be easily upset by aggressive steering, braking and accelerating. Keep all inputs soft and progressive, even if your car starts to slide. “The best drivers in the world, and it doesn’t matter what the conditions are, have got soft hands and soft feet,” says Lane. “A lot of people panic and jump aggressively on the brake pedal when they feel they are losing grip and that can actually induce a skid. You’ve got to ease back on the accelerator, then softly apply the brakes if required. Don’t jump on the brakes.”

5. Factor in additional travel time

Wet roads mean slower roads, so give yourself a little extra time to get from A to B. “What takes you half an hour takes 40 minutes, but the average person is still only allowing half an hour and then they’re in a rush,” says Lane. “That’s when they start to increase their speed and take additional risks. To mitigate risk, allow some extra time.”


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