The 2020 monsoon season is fast approaching and while the sound of rainfall and the cool winds make it enjoyable, there are various drawbacks for road users. On the road, torrential downpours coupled with our bad roads and weak infrastructure make driving and motoring considerably more difficult. How should you be driving in these challenging conditions? What should you do? And how can you be safer on the road? Here's a lowdown on surviving the monsoon.
1. Don't tyre them out
Make sure your tyres are in good shape.
Seeing cars running on ‘bald’, or worn out tyres is not an uncommon sight on Indian roads. Needless to say, driving with such tyres is highly unadvised for many reasons. Worn-out tyres offer little grip on slippery surfaces such as a rain-soaked road. Tyre treads (grooves) are designed to disperse water and allow the contact of rubber and road. But with no grooves, a tyre will simply not be able to displace water and will surf or slide. Make sure the tread depth is above the minimum level. As a rough guide, tread depth (distance from tyre surface to groove base) should be at least 2mm deep. Most tyres will have tread wear indicators – these are small cross ribs set in the main longitudinal grooves, about 1.5 to 2mm in height. Once the tyre surface is level with these ribs, it's time to get a new set.
Another thing worn tyres are prone to do are develop punctures, or even worse, burst. So, ensure that the tread depth is above the minimum, and there are no cracks or signs of excessive wear.
2. Brake it down
Worn or water-logged brakes are a significant hazard.
Stopping distances are much longer on wet roads, hence making sure your brakes are in tip-top shape is a big help. When driving during heavy rains or just after driving through large puddles, make sure you dry the brakes by lightly tapping them intermittently. Now a days, new car come with ABS as standards which make braking in wet conditions much easier, and keep you safer in the rains.
3. Distance is your friend
Keeping your distance from the vehicle in the front could help to avoid an accident.
When driving in the rains, leaving a little extra space from the vehicle in front and lower speed, can be very beneficial. It gives you more time to react under poor visibility, and that sometimes is the difference between life and death. It will also provide you with a better view of the road ahead, handy with the increased potholes and debris.
4. Clean wipe
Taking care of the wipers and making sure there is enough wiper washer fluid is vital.
What you want when driving in the monsoons is a neat, streak-free windshield when you turn on your wipers. Streaks can hamper your daytime vision and also cause distracting headlight refractions. So, make sure your blades are wiping clean. Also, top-up on the wiper washer fluid to clean mud splashes and sprays from the cars passing by.
5. See and be seen
Using your hazard lights in the rain is a serious no-no.
Most road users would have seen others using hazard lights or ‘blinkers’, when there is a heavy downpour and visibility is poor. On the surface, it is seemingly a good idea to improve one's visibility. Hazard lights are, however, to be used only when a car is stationary in a dangerous or vulnerable spot. By using these lights in the rains, a slow-moving car could be mistaken for one that’s stopped. So, in cases of a heavy downpour, simply switch on your headlights and fog lights if your car has them. This will ensure you are seen on the road.
6. Escape plan
Hope for the best, but expect the worst. Know how to escape your car during an emergency.
In case of a worst-case-situations, it pays to know all the ways to escape your car. For instance, many cars have an inner boot release mechanism that you can access through the folding rear seats, in the event the car's doors get jammed. In case you need to break open a window, use the car hammer. It also helps to have other handy bits like a seatbelt cutter and a torch. A certified fire extinguisher is also a handy tool for fires and also to break glass in emergencies. If nothing else, use your feet to try and break open the far side window.
7. Driving through floods
Don't get bogged down in flooded streets; keep on moving.
The unpredictability on the monsoons means that sometimes, passing through low-lying that are flooded areas is unavoidable. Here are some pointers if you just have to wade through water.
Assess the depth of the water by watching the water level and observing other cars passing through. If need be, wait for a bit and observe some more.
Cross the area slowly and steadily, preferably in first gear.
Keep the revs high and steady. This will prevent the water from entering the exhaust, which can
cause engine damage.
If you suspect water has entered the exhaust, do not try to start the car. It will only cause more engine damage.
Once through, don’t forget to dry the brakes by gently dabbing the pedal while moving.
8. Fuel up
As traffic snarls are inevitable in the rains, make sure you have fuel for your car, and for yourself.
Another thing that seems inevitable in the monsoons, is coming across traffic jams. Be prepared for long waits in your car, and so make sure you’re tanked up before heading out. The last thing you need is finding that you're stranded because you're out of fuel. Also, keeping some water and snacks handy, lots of music, spare phone charger or power banks, a change of clothes and maybe even a towel is not a bad idea.