Accidents exponentially rise during the monsoon, mainly because motorists don't adjust their driving and riding styles for wet roads. Worse still, many don't renew their insurance and are left stranded with big problems during this time, in the case of an accident.
We bring you a list of things to keep in mind to build a safety buffer around you and your loved ones this monsoon, that you should adopt without thinking twice. Because "No pain, no gain" applies in the rain too.
1. Ensure all your documentation is in place
Make sure you carry all relevant documentation during the rainy season, because you don't want to add unnecessary troubles to the time you meet with an accident. Touch wood, it doesn't happen, but it's best to be prepared for the worst. Vehicle registration, insurance, pollution certificate and driver's license need to be with you at all times.
2. Reduce your speed!
It takes longer to safely slow down and steer in wet weather, and your inputs have to be smoother. Be extremely gentle with the brakes with smooth inputs, release the clutch slowly between gears, and don't be over-aggressive with the throttle. Also, add more distance to the vehicle in front of you.
3. Check the condition of your tyres
Your tyres are the only contact with the road, and they need to be in good shape, especially for the rainy season. Try the standard one-rupee coin test. If the head of the Ashoka symbol is visible when placed into the tyre tread groove, the tyre should be replaced.
3. Check the condition of your tyres (contd.)
Good tyres are extremely important during the monsoon because the tyre needs to dispel water out of its grooves constantly to maintain grip with the road. If the tread is worn, there is no place for the water to leave out of the tyre, and the car ends up riding on a layer of water very easily, which leads to loss of traction. This is called aquaplaning, which could even result in a fatal accident.
4. Have a fresh set of wipers installed
If your wipers are not in good condition, you will not be able to see out of your windscreen. It's as simple as that. And since we obviously need the best vision we can get, especially during a spell of heavy rain, it should be high up on your checklist.
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4. Have a fresh set of wipers installed (contd.)
Have the wiper blades replaced at least twice a year. Also, the entire wiper arm may need replacing on older cars, since they tend to warp over time, and become unable to exert enough downward pressure on the windscreen to clean it. It's a simple procedure, and you can save precious bucks if you do it yourself.
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5. Turn on your headlights to improve your visibility
When visibility is poor, turn on your headlights (on low beam) as this will improve your visibility to others. Also make sure that you headlights are in good working order - old, yellowed lens reflectors need to be replaced before the monsoon, especially since wet roads tend to absorb much more light than dry tarmac, and your headlights will become less effective.
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6. Pull over when the rain becomes too heavy
Wiper blades can get overloaded during extremely heavy rain, and not be able to function as normal, resulting in a layer of water on the windscreen that becomes very hard to see through. This is when you need to pull over to let the shower pass or at least lighten till visibility reaches a safe level. Make sure you move off the highway or road with your hazard lights on to a safe place where your car isn't in the path of traffic, or you become a prime candidate for a bad accident.
Picture credit: SEATCordoba via Wiki Commons
7. What to do if your car skids
Prevention is certainly better than cure, so we stress again to slow down! Try to brake before entering turns, and not mid-corner, and be gentle with the throttle. However, if you do feel your car skidding, remain calm and try "steering into the skid". What this means is you should look and steer in the direction you want the car to go. If your car doesn't have ABS, don't brake as this will only heighten the loss of control, but if the car is ABS-equipped, brake firmly while steering into the skid.
8. Highway techniques
While the three-second rule applies for distance between vehicles on the highway in the dry, it needs to be increased when the roads are wet. This gives you more of a chance to slow down in case the vehicle in front suddenly hits the brakes. If you are in the habit of following cars closely, now is the time to stop.
8. Highway techniques (contd.)
Also take extreme care when overtaking trucks and buses as they tend to lift up huge amounts of spray from the road which can result in temporary loss of vision. If possible, don't drive during the night, because our highways are already dangerous at that time with blinding headlights restricting vision even in the dry. Lights get exponentially multiplied with every drop on the windscreen so take extreme care if indeed, you have to be on the road.
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9. Look out for oil spills on the road
Rain can mix with oil residue on the road to form a film on the road, which can be lethal, especially around a curve. Being gentle with your steering inputs, gear changes and acceleration comes into play again. Take care at intersections where oil tends to collect from trucks, buses and older vehicles, and remain alert especially just after it begins raining since this oily film would not have had the time to wash away.
10. Be extremely careful driving through water
Driving through a flooded area can be extremely dangerous for your car, since all its expensive electronic control systems are put at risk. As a rule, don't attempt to drive through water that is higher than the bottom of your doors, or you could end up in big trouble. If, however, you deem it safe to go through the water, slot the car into first gear, keep the clutch depressed just enough to partially engage gear, and drive slowly through the water. This is to keep the exhaust gases moving out of the tail pipe. If water gets sucked back in, it could enter the engine and render it useless, requiring you to replace it entirely.
11. Avoid all distractions
Both the stereo and the fellow passengers needs to kept at minimum volume, so exercise your right as a driver to make sure this happens. And don't answer your cell phone, even through the handsfree, if it's a heavy downpour and visibility and driving conditions are poor. You need to concentrate now, because yours and often other lives rest in your hands.
12. Make sure the air conditioner is working
In a rainy spell, the windows of the car tend to get fogged up if the defroster is not working. It works best combined with the AC, so make sure the air con is in good working condition or you'll have to use a cloth or towel to constantly wipe the windscreen and windows. Not recommended if you're driving, especially at highway speeds. If your car doesn't have an AC, halve a clean potato, rub it on the windows and leave to dry. This will help reduce condensation.
13. Try not to splash pedestrians
And last but not least, there is nothing worse than being stuck outdoors during a heavy downpour, so be sensitive to pedestrians and two-wheelers on the road. Anticipate where water can splash them and slow down!