There are situations when driving becomes a difficult task, which results in encountering poor/special conditions. These include driving at night, driving in rain, harmattan haze, misty/foggy weather, etc. Even when driving under poor conditions, the driver is still responsible for keeping full control of the vehicle at all times. Most poor driving conditions result in reduced visibility, which may necessitate the driver in switching on their headlights, which can significantly reduce the chances of an accident because your vehicle is easier to see.
When driving under poor condition, other recommended practices to keep safe on the road include:
• Reduce your normal driving speed.
• Reduce your speed further on seeing headlights or taillights. The headlights may be on a vehicle being driven down the centre of the road, and the taillights may be a vehicle stopped on the road or just barely moving.
• If driving at a greatly reduced speed, turn your hazard lights on. This will make you more visible and warn other drivers that you are travelling at a reduced rate of speed.
• Be prepared for emergency stops. If the visibility becomes so poor that you can barely see, cautiously pull off and stop. Wait until visibility improves before.
Some of the poor driving conditions we encounter are explained below:
Driving at Night
In some situations when the road are in good condition and devoid of potholes, driving at night can be easier than driving in daylight, for instance, there might often be less traffic at night and you can usually see approaching headlights early. But in other situations, driving at night is more dangerous than driving during the day because you cannot see as far.
When driving at night, there are a lot of things that you cannot see, for example cyclists, pedestrians, animals and so on, which will result in driving more slowly and you should remember that you must be able to stop safely well within the clear space that you can see ahead. If you are dazzled by approaching headlights at night, slow down and look away from the source of the light. If necessary, stop your car..
Many cars have ‘dipping mirrors’ (anti-dazzle device) to reduce glare from following headlights. Avoid dazzling drivers in front by keeping well back.
When driving at night, allow plenty of fresh air in your vehicle to avoid drowsiness, if you feel tired, stop and take a break.
To minimize the hazards of night driving, ensure that you do the following:
• Check your lights regularly so the low beams reveal objects ahead without dazzling oncoming drivers.
• Keep headlights clean.
• Keep the interior lights off so that your eyes will remain adapted to the dark.
• Watch for pedestrians and vehicles stopped at the side of the road.
• If you must stop, pull off the road and use your hazard lights.
• Watch out for road signs, as they are more difficult to see and read at night.
• Keep both the inside and outside of the windscreen clean.
Fog is caused by droplets of moisture in the air. At its worst you can barely see the bonnet of your car. In these conditions it would be extremely unwise to drive. Always use dipped headlights (or front fog lights) and high-intensity rear lights when visibility is seriously reduced.
Never ‘hang on’ to the tail lights of another vehicle in fog as this would reduce your available stopping distance in an emergency.
In foggy conditions, it is best not to drive. However, if you must drive in fog, you need to take the following precautions:
• Increase your following distance.
• Drive at slow speed. If you see headlights or taillights, slow down the more. A driver may be driving in the centre of the roadway or may be stopped or barely moving.
• Drive with your headlights set on dipped, or use fog lights.
• Stay within the limits of your vision of your headlights. You may have to stop suddenly. If the fog is too dense, pull off the road and stop.
• Use your direction indicators long before you turn right or left, and brake early when you approach a stop to warn other drivers.
...to be continued
Stephen K. Dieseruvwe
Director General, Delta State Traffic Management Authority (DESTMA)
**Driver Trainer and Road Safety Consultant