How to avoid risky behaviour on wet roads

10 March 2014

Be cautious when driving in rainy weather

With recent changes in our weather patterns and flooding due to heavy rains across the country, all road users need to be extra vigilant and patient on the roads. Poor visibility and reduction in road holding are some of the biggest problems. Minimum braking distances may be up to 50% longer on wet roads than on dry. Spray from other vehicles can also reduce forward vision and result in delayed observation of hazards.

According to the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA), the most important rules of driving in wet weather are:
  1. Adapt your speed to the road surface and visibility conditions so that you are always able to stop in the distance you can see
  2. Extend your following distance so that you are able to safely brake and steer in the event of an emergency. In dry conditions a safe gap is two or three seconds minimum, in wet weather, five or six seconds minimum is sensible
  3. Avoid harsh braking or steering wherever possible, it can place  the vehicle out of control, even in vehicles fitted with electronic driver assistance
  4. In the instance that robots are not working, the law requires motorists to treat a non-functioning robot as a stop street. Make sure to always keep an eye on motorists behind you when stopping for dead robots at night, if they clearly arenít going to stop, be ready to get moving or swerve out of the way. 
Potholes are another major issue on South African roads. If there are heavy puddles on the road, itís impossible to see the potholes under it. In these conditions, the AA suggests that motorists travel slowly enough that the potholes should not present a damage problem. Furthermore, these potholes cannot be repaired in wet weather, which exacerbates the situation especially with the persistent rains weíve been experiencing. 

Motorists should also be cognisant of other vulnerable road users such as pedestrians. Pedestrians are vulnerable for a number of reasons, among these: low literacy and education levels which lead to poor road safety awareness, being on the roads after dark without high visibility clothing, alcohol consumption, roads which run through major settlements, walking on the wrong side of the road, walking in the road instead of on pavements, choosing to cross at dangerous spots and not following proper procedure when crossing the road. Other challenges pedestrians face:
  1. People tend to look down in the rain. They may not be aware of traffic
  2. Pedestrians who are under an umbrella have restricted visibility of traffic 
  3. Slippery roads and pavements make it more likely for pedestrians to lose their footing and fall in front of traffic
  4. Drivers tend not to be looking for pedestrians at the best of times, and driving workload rises in rainy weather making it even less likely they will notice pedestrians
  5. Braking  in wet weather is compromised, resulting in  potentially high speed impacts and greater likelihood of a fatality if a pedestrian is hit  
Drivers and pedestrians are equally guilty of ignoring right-of-way rules at traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. This increases crash risk, as does jaywalking, where pedestrians cross between intersections rather than at them where there is at least some regulation of traffic flow by traffic lights or stop streets. There are forecasts of more rain for the next couple of days so the AA urges all road users to be careful and respect others in wet weather to reduce the number of unnecessary accidents and fatalities on our roads. 

Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
General enquiries:
011 799 1000
Media enquiries:
083 386 6954                                   

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