How to drive safely in wet weather as rain pummels UAE

Five-second rule between you and the vehicle in front could be a life saver in difficult road conditions

Flooding after heavy rains in the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National

After four days of rain and more on the way across the UAE, motorists should check their driving habits during wet weather to stay safe on the roads.

Bad weather in the Emirates is often associated with strong winds that whip up sand and dust, or fog and mist patches that reduce visibility on the roads.

But after a lengthy dry spell in the country, 2022 has produced an unusually wet start for many and caused poor driving conditions on the nation’s roads.

More rain was expected on Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday, with blowing dust on Thursday.

Braking distance

A major problem is drivers not giving themselves enough distance to stop in the wet when the car in front brakes suddenly or is involved in a collision.

Serious road traffic accidents in wet weather are often caused by motorists driving too fast, or not leaving enough braking distance from the vehicle in front.

Not all drivers will have experience of driving in the wet, so be prepared for unusual driving behaviour.

Avoid using cruise control on wet roads because automatic acceleration can lead to losing control once tyres regain traction after hydroplaning on standing water.

Following some golden rules can help keep drivers safe during periods of heavy rain and hazardous conditions.

Visibility

In reduced visibility, the golden rule of leaving a three-second gap from the car in front should extend to five seconds, to allow enough braking distance in an emergency.

Headlights should be turned on a low beam, with front and rear fog lights activated – but not hazard lights.

Extra care and more space should be given to vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians.

Roads are likely to be slippery, increasing the chances of going into a skid and losing control.

The risk of aquaplaning is cut if speeds are reduced, allowing more time for decision-making and manoeuvres.

Know your vehicle. By using windscreen wipers properly, with the correct speed settings and air conditioning to keep windscreens clear of mist can be a life saver, offering greater visibility and longer reaction times to potential incidents ahead.

If any mechanical issues arise making visibility more challenging, always pull over to a safe rest stop and turn on hazard lights to warn other motorists.

Planning

Keep driving to essential journeys only during heavy rain.

Check your car is in good working order before leaving on longer trips, particularly windscreen washer fluid.

Keep an eye on social media and National Centre of Meteorology announcements before departure to check on and weather warnings. Listen to the radio for updates.

Road markings may become harder to see when there is standing water, but don’t stray from your lane as there is a natural tendency to wander into the middle of the highway during periods of bad weather.

The right side of the road can be a good guide and prevent straying off centre and into oncoming traffic,

Dos and don’ts

Keep hazard lights for emergencies only, do not use them in heavy rain unless you have come to a standstill and need help.

Use rear fog lights only when visibility is reduced because they can be a distraction and dazzle motorists behind.

Fog lights can mask brake lights, so drivers behind may not see you braking.

Avoid areas where there is likely to be flooding, such as wadis or lakes and low-lying ground where floodwater is likely to gather, such as underpasses.

Do not drive into deep water. If road markings are obscured it is probably too deep to drive through.

Just a few inches of water can lead to loss of control and a potential engine stall.

Updated: January 4th 2022, 11:04 AM