Be safe on wet roads, paramedics’ plea

Tuesday, October 24 2023

Wet weather creates hazardous conditions that can lead to accidents on our roads. Netcare 911 has issued an urgent call to action for drivers to be aware of the risks and offers practical tips for preventing accidents when driving in the rain.

“Every year, emergency medical services see the tragic consequences of rainy weather on our roads, often due to drivers not realising that cars handle very differently on wet road surfaces,” says Sarah Kekana, Netcare 911 spokesperson.

Pic: Sarah Kekana


The basics
Firstly, be prepared for all conditions by ensuring your car is in good working order. Standard checks should include brake function, wheel balance and alignment, and that your tyres have enough tread and are at the correct pressure.

“When storms and heavy rainfall strike unexpectedly, visibility is often diminished. In terms of the National Road Traffic Act, windscreen wipers must be kept in good working order. Drivers should regularly check their wiper blades and replace them as necessary,” Kekana says.

"Rainfall creates slippery and potentially hazardous road surfaces. In such conditions, it is essential to exercise heightened caution and remain vigilant for potential hazards, including flooded roads and low-lying bridges, as well as other unforeseen circumstances," Kekana advises.

“The most important principles of driving in wet weather are to reduce your speed considerably, keep a longer following distance from the car in front of you than usual and maintain visibility with your headlights on. Steer and apply brakes gently, indicate and maintain low RPMs or revs to minimise the risk of skidding.”

Aquaplaning – stay calm
“One of the most frightening and unpredictable dangers of driving on wet surfaces is aquaplaning, where puddles on the road surface can cause your car’s rear wheels to lose traction. The car’s revs suddenly increase, the steering feels light or unresponsive, and the back end of the car may start to drift uncontrollably,” she explains.


What to do:

  • Stay calm
  • Do not slam on the brakes, as this will make the situation worse
  • Gradually release the accelerator
  • Relax your grip on the steering wheel, but try to keep control gently
  • Only apply brakes once you feel control return

Keep your distance
“In dry conditions, it is advised to keep a following distance of at least three car lengths between your car and the vehicle in front of you. In wet weather, it is recommended that this is doubled to six-car lengths to allow enough time to safely slow down and stop in an emergency,” Kekana says.

“Maintain a safe distance from large trucks as their substantial wheels generate significant spray. Make sure that you can see their mirrors, otherwise, they can’t see you. Big heavy vehicles such as trucks and buses also take much longer to stop, especially in wet weather, and drivers should avoid attempting to cut in front of any other vehicle.”

Don’t take a chance
“Avoid driving in heavy downpours or low-lying flood-prone areas as far as possible, and if you are travelling, check the weather forecast and local updates along your route. Even once the rain stops, approach standing water slowly and cautiously.

“Often water may be deeper than it appears, and it takes surprisingly little water for a car to get stuck or washed away or for the engine to stop working. If there is flooding, do not cross low-lying bridges, even if you think your car can make it across,” she says.

Come rain or shine
“Rain or shine, your safety is our priority. Be prepared for any medical emergency by downloading the Netcare App, which includes Netcare 911 emergency call and geolocation functions, as well as a 60-second call back option.

"Countless avoidable accidents happen each season when individuals underestimate the risks and gamble with their safety. The price of taking such chances is too high — prioritise life and make the choice to stay safe on our roads,” Kekana concludes.


References and further reading

Notes to editor 
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For media enquiries, contact MNA at the contact details listed below.

Issued by: MNA on behalf of Netcare 911
For media enquiries contact: Martina Nicholson, Meggan Saville, Estene Lotriet-Vorster, or Clementine Forsthofer
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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