Why even a bit of rain can be a dangerous thing on the road
Most drivers know to slow down and take extra precautions during heavy rain, but it’s actually light rain after a dry spell that is statistically more dangerous than a big wet.
It can be a seasonal problem too. When there are long periods of little or no rain, drivers tend to get out of practice of driving in those condition, says QBE’s Arron Mann, Head of Short Tail Claims.
“We see this time and time again when we have light showers and the roads get greasy. Drivers aren’t prepared for those conditions and the result is we see a lot of collision claims in accidents like rear-ending,” Mann says.
“Engine oil and grease builds up on the road during sustained dry period and then when the first rains come, even if it’s a light shower, the road surface can become very slippery.
“Eventually heavy rain will wash that built up grease away, but the first few hours are by far the most dangerous for drivers.”
Slowdown in the wet
There were 1,226 road crash deaths in 2017, according to Road Trauma Australia’s annual summaries report . High speed roads account for the largest proportion of fatal crashes and in 2017 almost half of all fatal crashes occur in posted speed zones of 100 km/hour or over, and only 12 per cent in speed zones of 50 km/hour or under.
“It goes without saying that people should always drive within the speed limit, but it’s also good practice to slow down in the wet, even if it’s just small downpour.
“We get more collision claims in this weather than we do in sustained heavy rain, when drivers tend to take more care with driving or stay off the roads entirely.
“In any case, slowing down and taking extra care when it first starts to rain is in everyone’s best interest,” Mann says.
In wet weather it’s always prudent to keep your distance from the car in front of you, maintain a safe distance when slowing down or stopping, and be aware of other road users and pedestrians.
The Australian Government’s Keys2Drive program, aimed at helping learner drivers and their teachers learn road safety recommends drivers turn on headlights and defoggers, even in light rain to keep windows clear.
“Brake earlier, and less forcefully, than you normally would. This increases the stopping distance between you and the car in front, and signals to the driver behind that you’re slowing down,” Keys2Drive recommends.
“Keep a sharp lookout for pedestrians – ordinarily attentive people may become distracted by opening an umbrella or rushing to get out of the wet, and they may find it harder to hear your approach over the sound of the rain,” according to Keys2Drive.
Your motor insurance
It’s important to take the time to understand how your insurance cover protects you if an accident does happen.
Proper car maintenance is vital for your own and others safety on the road, but it will also ensure your car meets its requirements under the law, says Grant Pearce, QBE Head of Product, Personal Lines.
“Your vehicle’s legal requirements, for example having the correct amount of tyre tread, are also reflected in your policy,” he says. “And if you don’t meet those legal requirements it may compromise your insurance cover.”
“So having adequate level of tyre tread is important for safety, important for meeting your legal obligations under vehicle registration laws and important for your insurance coverage", says Pearce.
Motor insurance covers you for damage to your cars as well as damage to other peoples’ cars and property when you were at fault and caused the damage.
In this context, this means, as a policy holder, you are responsible for ensuring your car was in good condition, says Grant Pearce, QBE Head of Product, Direct Lines.
“Your car insurance is designed to cover you if something unexpected happens, such as an accident outside your control. But if an accident happens and you knew your car was unsafe to drive or unroadworthy, including if the tyres were bald, then you may not be covered if your accident was because of the state of your tyres,” he said.
Tips to drive safely in the rain
- Take your time, slow down and allow for more travel time
- Keep your distance from the car in front, and give trucks and busses extra distance
- Turn your headlights on to help other drivers see you
- Brake earlier than normal
- Ensure your car is maintained safely, including brakes and tyres