Driving during Singapore’s torrential downpours increases the likelihood of accidents, but drivers can even out the odds with these 7 road safety tips.
Singapore has a well-earned reputation for being an overall safe and orderly city, but when it comes to driving, the picture is a little different.
Wikipedia states that on average, there are 20.2 road deaths per 100,000 vehicles per year in Singapore. This is distressingly high compared to other populous countries such as the United States (14.2), South Korea (13), Hong Kong (12.2), the United Kingdoms (5.7) and Japan (5.7).
But thankfully, despite our alarmingly global ranking when it comes to traffic-related deaths, our roads have gotten safer over the past decade. According to data from the Singapore Police Force, the number of persons injured as a result of a traffic accident reached a high of 10,018 in 2018, but has since decreased to 7,184 in 2021.
All these sobering statistics are just a long-winded way to remind you that road safety should never be taken for granted. That goes double during the monsoon season, when late-afternoon thunderstorms can turn a pleasant drive home into a slippery, sliding slalom course if you’re not careful.
And might we remind you of your precious No-claims Discount, which took you five years of painstaking work to build up to the maximum 50%-off your insurance premiums, premiums that could go back up with just an unfortunate skid?
In the spirit of helping you avoid road accidents and the ensuing financial fallout, here are seven tips for driving safely in the rain.
Tip 1: Make sure your wipers are up to scratch
Driving in the rain will reduce visibility, which can significantly increase the chances of getting into a collision.
But you could be making things worse for yourself by neglecting your windscreen wipers, causing you to encounter streaking, wet spots and misting during a downpour.
Wipers are relatively cheap and easy to replace, but since they continue working even if they are a little damaged, you may not think to change them regularly (kinda like your toothbrush).
However, the prevailing recommendation is to replace your car windscreen wiper every 6 to 12 months, depending on your usage and the type of material the wipers are made of.
If you don’t want to change out your car wiper blades so frequently, consider spending more for halogen-hardened blades or ones made of silicone – those wipers last longer before needing to be replaced.
Tip 2: Turn on your headlights
Another simple tip for overcoming the challenges of reduced visibility when driving in the rain is to turn on your headlights.
The benefits of doing so are two-fold: You will illuminate the road ahead of you, helping you spot and react to hazards. And also, having your headlights on will help alert other parties on the road to the presence of your vehicle.
Having said that, it’s important not to use high beams unless absolutely necessary, as they can distract and disorientate other drivers and road users, leading to an accident.
Many car models come with fog lamps installed – if not, you can have them added to your vehicle (within LTA guidelines) – and you can use them to enhance visibility in the rain. But do be aware that such lamps can only be switched during adverse weather conditions, such as heavy rain or haze.
Tip 3: Keep to the middle of the road
As fun as it is to drive over a puddle and delight the kids with a huge wave of water (provided there’s no one in the way, of course!), doing so will increase your chances of getting into an accident.
Driving over water, especially at high speeds, can cause your car to skid – the technical term is “hydroplaning” – making you lose control of your vehicle in an instant, with disastrous consequences.
Roads are designed to direct water to the sides, where they can be drained off via drainage systems. This means that there is almost always a mini river of water coursing through the sides of the road during a rainy day.
Furthermore, choked grates or poor road maintenance can cause rainwater to accumulate, creating those tempting puddles.
Even a small amount of water on the road can be problematic, as water that gets into your braking system can make it harder to stop your vehicle.
Tip 4: Increase your distance from the vehicle in front of you
Given the higher chances of accidents, it’s a good idea to give yourself increased reaction time and braking distance when driving in the rain.
Both of these can be accomplished by simply putting more distance between you and the vehicle in front. The Highway Code stipulates that you should maintain space equal to one car length from the vehicle in front for every 16km/h of your speed.
Since most of us don’t have an A.I. assistant like Jarvis in our cars to calculate the appropriate distance to keep, we’ll just have to eyeball it. Increase the distance you normally observe by 2x or so when driving in the rain, and make adjustments as necessary.
Tip 5: Check your car tyres
Driving with balding tyres, or having them over- or under-inflated is not ideal even during the best of times. But on rainy days, bad tyres are a downright hazard!
Think about it: The tyres of your vehicle are the only thing that’s in contact with the road, which becomes more slippery and treacherous during a downpour.
Tyres that are in poor condition have an increased chance of failure, which means a minor skid can turn into a more serious accident during bad weather.
If your car tyres are due for a change, it might be best to get them checked or replaced before venturing out during the monsoon season.
Tip 6: Trust your anti-lock braking system
Most modern-day cars come with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) installed, which is a safety feature designed to avoid your vehicle going into a long, terror-inducing skid due to sudden and forceful braking.
It works by sensing when your tyres are about to lock up, and automatically disengaging the brakes for a split second to help you regain control of your vehicle.
When a collision is imminent, your reaction may be to pump the brakes (which was taught to drivers as a way to prevent tyre lock-ups), but doing so can interfere with your ABS.
As such, it is a much better idea to apply steady and appropriate pressure on the brakes, and trust your ABS to do what it was designed to do.
As a further precaution, ensure your ABS is in tip-top shape through regular system tests and brake fluid replacements.
Tip 7: Avoid driving if possible
If possible, avoid driving during rainy weather. Afterall, you can’t get into a traffic accident if you don’t get into the car in the first place.
Granted, it may not always be possible or practical not to drive just because it’s raining. In fact, what’s the point of having a car if you ain’t gonna drive it during rainy weather, right?
Well, at the very least, make sure to give yourself more travelling time to get to your destination. The roads will likely be more congested during heavy rain, which means you should expect some delays.
More importantly, if you’re running behind, you may feel more tempted to speed, drive more recklessly, or make more bad decisions; these are all especially bad when driving in the rain.
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