Stay safe while driving in bad weather - Daily Monitor

Stay safe while driving in bad weather

Thursday March 14 2019

When driving in bad weather, the most important

When driving in bad weather, the most important thing to remember is to slow down or stop until you can see clearly again. FILE PHOTO 

By Joan Salmon

While driving, visibility is key. Poor visibility is common during heavy downpours, fog, in case of smoke, as well as during times of very hot weather as we have experienced since the start of this year. Being aware of these weather patterns is important if we are to drive safely.

Heavy rain
During downpours, clouded windows and windscreens are the norm due to high humidity and can reduce visibility. Rainy nights are also a driving nightmare because blinding can occur as headlights of oncoming vehicles reflect in the water on the road surface.
Alex Ntambi shares about a morning that tested his driving ability, “As I drove to work, the rain started pouring and though the drops seemed big, it did not seem anything worth worrying about. However, with time, I experienced blurred visibility as the windscreen got hazy owing to condensation hence the need to keep turning on and off the air conditioner and wiping. However, with time, the winds started blowing hard that we needed the air conditioner full time and drive with full lights in order to see and be seen. More to that, the road started getting slippery that I was forced to park for close to an hour.”

Fog
In fog, water droplets are so small and light; they remain floating in the air hence reduced visibility as the light is diffused by the fog droplets.
Ambrose Nango, a motorist, has occasionally experienced fog conditions in the morning and evenings but the first of these stands out. “This Monday evening after a long day’s work, all I needed was to get home early. However, that was not to be because there was dense fog. So we drove slowly because visibility was so bad that I could barely see the car before me. To help matters, I had to drive with hazard indicators for oncoming cars as well as those behind me to see my presence on the road. For a journey that usually took me an hour, I reached home after four hours.”

Sunshine
A sunrise or sunset can prove to be great hindrances when one is driving. This is usually when the sun is low on the horizon, an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. Visibility is blurred by this low sun that a motorist will look through their windscreen, but fail to see clearly. Another aspect is when sun rays are reflected by a glass building.
As she raced to catch up with a client one morning, Myra Luliika was in for an ugly surprise, “Joining the road had never been a problem but this morning, as the sunrise rays glared in my eyes, I failed to see the oncoming car and proceeded to join the main road. The bang is still raw in my ears five years later and the trauma that followed was so bad I froze for close to 10 minutes”.

Very hot temperatures
According to, swov.nl, an online portal, high temperatures, especially have a psychological and/or physiological effect on a driver as emotions rise with the temperature, people are more irritable to others, they get tired, lose their concentration, and their reaction time increases. While we do not experience heat waves as has been seen in some countries, the increase in temperature still affects drivers as they are far from what we are accustomed to and research shows people sleep shorter or less deeply because of the high night-time temperatures. This results in them being more tired when they take to the road.
Emily Lumumba dreaded driving during hot seasons, “For some reason, I would miss road signs and have low attention spans. One mid-afternoon, I missed the stop sign, wondering why people were not moving only to rum into an oncoming car.”

Smoke
The instances of visual impairing smoke may not be a common occurrence. However, on some occasions, fog could get mixed with smoke. That said, both instances can make driving very difficult.
Ronald Lubulwa was an unfortunate driver one evening as he approached his home. “Being in the valley, we experience fog quiet often but matters were made worse because that day, the smoke from a sugar plantation on the hilltop was more than usual giving us thick smog. Driving through was such a nightmare that I had to pull off the road for a while as I could barely see. Thankfully, the road is barely used so I was not scared of being hit by other road users.”
According to orlandosentinel.com, it is also advisable that when driving through smoke one drives with low beam lights as high beam light will be reflected back off the smoke impairing visibility even more. The lights are meant to help other drivers see your vehicle. Therefore, it is important to make sure that they are all working. Another thing to consider is keeping your headlights and windscreen clean to reduce the glare and increase visibility. That would also call for functional wipers to help in cleaning the windscreen in case it is not clean.

What to do
Traffic spokesman Charles Ssebambulide says, during heavy rains, it is advisable to slow down and use air conditioning to clear the windscreen as you drive. “Slowing down is also recommended during these times as it will save you from knocking other road users but also save your life in case of debris or fallen trees and poles. It therefore goes without saying that driving at 80 kph would be reckless”.
During fog, Ssebambulide says, “Put on lights and slow down.” Our weather forecast is lacking because our meteorological department is yet to get there in as far as predicting those weather conditions.

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