Daily in Port Harcourt, the River State capital, the heavens pours out its blessings on residents. I don’t know what the report for other parts of the country is, but the simple truth is that the rains are still here and we need to take necessary precautions to avoid road traffic crashes and possible deaths .Driving in the rain, according to the Revised Highway Code is more difficult and hazardous. This week , I intend to run this material again as a guide to both new and old drivers starting with P. Olson and M. Sivak research conducted in 1988 which found out that the amount of light required to see at night doubles every thirteen years. That is, at 20years of age, you need 100% of light to see, while at 33years, you will require twice the amount of light used to see at 20.The preponderant age of drivers on our roads would fall within the second category and most of these drivers within the context of our economy cannot rank among drivers on balanced diet. It therefore means that a good number of our drivers because of other factors peculiar to us would not even fit into the 1988 conclusions by Olson and Sivac.The vital lesson however is that we cannot play down the place of visibility. It is safe to drive with your light on when it is raining and at night. Anytime visibility is poor, endeavor to have your head lights on.
While we advise that we enhance our visibility, special care must be taken to avoid the typical Lagos driving of, kiss me I kiss you or hanging on to someone’s rear light which has the potential of leading you off course; therefore you must defensively keep a safe distance. It is also advisable that you use clean cloth soaked in soap to clean the particles that may have accumulated over time on your wiper to make it more effective. You must also learn to control your speed. You are advised to adopt the common sense speed limit by adjusting your speed to suit the weather, your vehicle, your capability and competence and your age which we have said affects your sight or the amount of light required. Common sense therefore dictates that speed should be lower when weather is bad or roads defective.eg-on wet or slippery roads or when the view is unclear from smoky exhausts of other vehicles, harmattan dust or in foggy weather.
Critical to driving at any time is speed. It is identified as a critical factor and that is why good driving demands that we obey speed limits at all times especially during bad weather such as the raining season. When the road is wet, the chances of your vehicle gliding are very slim. Also vehicles in front of you, especially large or speeding vehicles may raise a film of dirty water to further reduce visibility. Your wipers must always work. When it is raining or the road is wet, leave at least double the normal stopping distance. if you are following a vehicle at a safe distance and another vehicle pulls into the gap you have left, drop back to regain a safe distance. If you are driving in a very wet weather, you may find that your vehicle begins to aquaplane; ie, slide. This is because water builds up between the tyres and the road and makes the steering feel light
Now let’s talk about steering handling at all times, including during the rains. The vogue on our major roads including the cities is to find a good number of drivers who hold the steering with one hand, eat, or phone, with the other. Some others would choose to rest their right arm on the front passengers head rest even under the rain. The correct posture is to hold your steering wheel with both hands except when shifting gear lever or giving signals. The recommended way is to hold the steering on nearly opposite sides in a position termed “ten-to-two” derived from the clock hand positions at ten minutes to two o’clock, that is, 01.50 or 13.50 hours. It is a traffic offence to drive with one hand only
Driving we have noted is all about visibility. You must be particularly careful at dusk and in misty or dusty environment when it is more difficult to judge speed and distance. To overtake, never do so if you are in doubt. Overtaking is a dangerous manoeuvre. Ask yourself if you really need to overtake. Learn to signal in good time; ensure it is clear and safe and that it is legal for you to overtake. Avoid overtaking at the crest of a hill, slope, built up arrears, corner, bend, narrow bridge or a bus stop. Do not overtake where the road narrows, or where your action would force another vehicle to swerve or brake suddenly, or if you would have to cross double solid white lines, or if the solid line of the centre lines is nearer you.
Lastly, remember that your tyre connects the vehicle with the road; they are the part of the vehicle that has direct contact with the road. It is therefore important that you use good tyres and run a check on your tyre pressures with a quality tyre pressure gauge (not the abused/overused roadside vulcanizer’s gauge). Such a check may reveal that at least one of your tyres is incorrectly inflated. Very few vehicles, if any, will pass this test.
Incorrect tyre pressure is the major cause of tyre blowouts, sudden tyre failures and premature tyre wear. Incorrect tyre pressure is an invitation to disaster even if the tyres are brand new! It is a time bomb waiting for the right time to explode.
The implication is that each time such a vehicle is driven, the occupants are facing grave danger without being aware of it. There are two types of incorrect tyre pressure. These are over-inflation and under-inflation.
Let’s take a look at how they can affect your tyres and cause disaster and what could be done to maintain a proper pressure for your tyres and so prevent or drastically minimize blowouts and other forms of tyre failures. Under-inflation is the major cause of tyre blowouts. When a tyre is under-inflated, it increases what is known as the ROLLING RESISTANCE (RR) as the vehicle moves. RR generates a tremendous amount of heat that could make your tyre explode like a bomb. Such an explosion (blowout) would destabilize the vehicle’s balance leading to a crash and disaster. When over-inflated, a tyre becomes stiff. This can make it to puncture easily. The internal materials used in making the tyre are also subjected to undue strains. This would make them snap, leading to bulges or swells. As the tyre hits a pot hole or a bump, it can easily cut and have a sudden deflation that could a crash.
Over-inflation also leads to partial contact of the tyres with the road surface. This reduces traction and can easily lead to loss of control when one is on high speed, wet surface, cornering or braking. Each of these conditions can easily lead to a crash and disaster. You can prevent this by owing a quality tyre gauge or installing a high profile automatic tyre monitor.