Thursday 22 August 2019

'Tis the season for bad weather. Here are six tips for dealing with it

Our Road Safety Authority expert has useful advice on how to cope should things turn nasty

The golden rule in extreme weather conditions is to ask yourself, 'Is my journey necessary?'. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto
The golden rule in extreme weather conditions is to ask yourself, 'Is my journey necessary?'. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Thankfully, the first anniversary of storm Desmond has passed without a repeat of the severe weather that had us watching poor Teresa Mannion being battered on the seafront in Salthill. Touch wood it will be a normal winter weather-wise.

There is no doubt we are getting more frequent episodes of severe weather. We must expect and plan for them. The RSA is ready to advise the public on whatever mother nature has in store for road users (as one of the agencies feeding into the Government's National Emergency Co-Ordination Committee).

The golden rule in extreme weather conditions is to ask yourself, 'Is my journey necessary?' Last year, the emergency services were diverted from real difficulties to rescue stranded motorists who should have known better and avoided driving through flooded roads in the first place.

Here are some essential tips on how to cope in poor conditions.

1. Wet Roads

In heavy rain, visibility is reduced, so slow down and allow extra distance between you and the vehicle in front. On wet roads, aquaplaning can occur when a film of water separates your tyres from the road, forcing your car into a skid.

If your car aquaplanes, don't brake fast or pull sharply on the steering wheel. Ease off the accelerator and let the car slow down itself until you feel the tyres regaining grip.

Do not try to steer or brake until grip has been restored. Keep a steady hand on the wheel and steer with small movements to correct your course.

2. Strong Winds

Control of your vehicle may be affected by strong winds. Trucks, buses and motorcycles are particularly at risk in high winds. Take special care on motorways and other high-speed roads, as crosswinds can push your vehicle off course.

Reduce your speed, maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front and keep a firm grip on your steering wheel. Watch out for vehicles and cyclists veering across the road or pedestrians who are blown off course, and continually scan the road ahead for any debris. If you come across debris on the road, report it to the garda.

3. Fog

When driving in dense fog always use your fog lights. Fog affects your judgment and you can easily find yourself speeding up without realising it.

Fog makes tail-lights seem further away than they really are. It's essential to slow down and drive a safe distance from the vehicle in front. You do not know what hazards may lie ahead.

When stopped at a junction, open your window, turn off the radio and listen out for any signs of approaching traffic. Turn off your front and rear fog lights when fog clears.

4. Black Ice

Black ice is one of winter's biggest hazards. It's hard to see. Black ice usually forms in sheltered or shaded areas on the road, under trees and near high walls. It forms when rain freezes as it hits the road, forming a thin sheet of ice that is extremely dangerous.

Avoid getting into a skid in the first place by slowing down. In freezing conditions, treat every road as though it's frozen.

If you skid on black ice, do not brake. Take your foot off the accelerator and use every control very delicately.

5. Flooding

After heavy rain, it can take some time for water to drain away. Try to avoid crossing a road covered in water. Wait until the water level drops or use an alternative route. Flooded roads that appear shallow could be deeper than you think.

If a road is flooded as a result of a river bursting its banks, the current could be strong enough to sweep your vehicle away. It is easy to underestimate the power of fast-moving water. If the road ahead is flooded, turn back. Do not attempt to drive through it.

6. Snow

If you are driving in snow, use dipped headlights and remember, gently does it. Slow down and leave extra space between you and the vehicle in front. Use a high gear but at a reduced speed. Use a low gear when travelling downhill. When slowing down, tap your brakes lightly to alert those behind to your presence. Always ask yourself if you can stop safely at any time.

If you are setting out after snowfall, clear the snow from the vehicle's roof and windows. Plan your journey in favour of major roads that are more likely to be gritted. Give yourself plenty of additional time to make your trip.

Irish Independent

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