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Drivers In The Storm

First of all, I’d like to pass our best wishes and sympathy to the people in the Lithgow area of the Blue Mountains who are having to cope with all the bushfires and possible evacuations. If you have been evacuated, please take care on the roads, as traffic accidents are probably a bigger killer than fires.  And those who live in the areas where the refugees from the fires have come to, mind out for the extra traffic on the roads with all the extra people.

In my last blog, I discussed the issue of lightning striking when you’re out driving. However, this isn’t the full story about what you need to know when driving in a storm, as the heavens can throw down a lot more than just a few bolts of lightning – and don’t we all wish that a good storm or three would pour down on all those fires!  Heavy rain and hail can also be a bit tricky to negotiate if you’re driving in a storm.





Thunderstorms often bring startlingly heavy precipitation and it often dramatically cuts down visibility, even if you have your windscreen wipers going full bore. It’s often a good idea to put your headlights on during a storm, especially if you’ve got a grey car that’s hard to see against a leaden sky.  If the precipitation gets really, really bad, pull over to the side of the road until the storm passes. The good news is that they often do pass by pretty quickly.

Hail can be a bit alarming to have falling on your car. In a really heavy fall, you start to wonder if it’s going to smash your windscreen, and you start thinking about hailstones the size of eggs (they’ve happened). It is possible that heavy hail could crack your windscreen and/or dent your bodywork. Thankfully, this is something that the insurance people are usually reasonable about.

Once the hail has fallen, you then have the hazard of pellets of ice all over the road until the stuff melts.  Take extra care when there’s hail on the road, especially with braking and cornering.  Hail is more or less extra slippery gravel, especially if it’s managed to pile up a bit. Even if you drive a car made where snow and ice are more common and which has all the safety features (e.g. Volvo, made in a country that reaches into the Arctic Circle), you’re going to need to ease off a bit. Make that a lot.

You also need to take extra care if there hasn’t been any hail but just heavy rain. One of the downsides of living in towns with all the paved roads is that rain doesn’t sink into tarmac the way that it sinks into plain dirt. The upside of this is that city roads don’t turn into mud pools of the sort that a lot of back country drivers have seen in the wet season. The downside is that all that water has to go somewhere, so flooding becomes more likely.

The golden rules for taking it carefully when driving heavy rain of all sorts are:

  1. Increase your following distance – it should be double what you normally allow.
  2. No sudden movements for braking, steering or acceleration. Traction control and ABS brakes can only do so much.
  3. Avoid puddles and pools of water in the road – there’s no way of telling how deep they go or what’s underneath… a pothole, a brick…
  4. If you do have to go through a puddle because the road has been flooded, pump your brakes lightly on and off after you’ve gone through so you can dry the brakes out a bit so they work better. Water is a lubricant, after all.


  1. john says:

    obviously nil mazda registrations in australia

    October 28th, 2013 at 8:44 am