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Explaining and driving through winter rain


We were just as shocked as we’re sure everyone was to see the mercury suddenly dip this past weekend. The change in temperature was palpable and then, seemingly out of nowhere this cold, ice-swept rain started thundering down upon parts of South Africa. There were reports on Twitter this morning about traffic lights not working (more so than usual) as well as reports of multiple accidents in the Gauteng region. We asked ourselves firstly, what caused these seemingly extreme weather conditions and what should one do when faced with them?

What caused this?

We contacted the South African Weather Service and according to forecaster Victoria Nurse, the Eastern parts of the country experienced a cold front which started on Saturday. Then yesterday there was what is called an upper air trough which is an area of relatively low atmospheric pressure and often precedes stormy weather. So what many of us experienced in the past 24 hours was a combination of cold conditions combined with atmospheric conditions that will cause rain, resulting in these unpleasant driving conditions.

What to do on cold, wet roads

  • Increase the three-second gap to a five, or six-second gap in order to maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead of you;
  • Drive slower in wet weather and apply the accelerator more gently when moving forward. Also, start braking earlier before approaching a stop sign or traffic lights. Braking suddenly in rainy conditions can cause a vehicle to start skidding;
  • Use the emergency lane to avoid approaching cars but only if you are able to see at least 150 metres ahead of you;
  • If you need to drive in the emergency lane, keep in mind there are pedestrians walking on the shoulder of the road who are trying to avoid muddy conditions;
  • Beware of oil patches on road surfaces. Drive as carefully as possible as the oil patches are relatively small and could go unnoticed in wet weather;
  • Be on the lookout during the first half hour or so when it starts raining. This is when oil and grime on the road surface mixes with water and a driver could possibly lose control of the vehicle;
  • Always switch on your vehicle’s headlights when driving in the rain; this will help you to see better and you will also be noticed by other drivers;
  • Wait a couple of seconds before activating the windshield wipers. An effective method is to add appropriate windshield washing fluid to the wiper’s water reservoir; this will help to clear any grime on the window much quicker than plain water.

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