Thunder and lightning has been lashing down in the UAE today and an unsettled period of weather can be expected as winter sets in. With the cloudy skies turning into heavy rain storms, the roads have become rather hazardous. When it rains here, it’s usually pretty heavy and this causes large amounts of standing water on the roads. With most motorists used to dry conditions, unsurprisingly, they find controlling their vehicles a challenge, so, we hope the following safety tips help you get around safely if you’re caught in a downpour over the next few days…

1. If visibility is down, slow down!

Each of the following tips are important but this one could be vital; driving like it is still dry in wet conditions is a sure way to have/cause an accident. Your stopping distances are going to be at least four times greater than in dry conditions so you must drive slower when the roads are wet. You must also leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle ahead of you. Remember – if visibility is down, you should slow down! Also, give yourself at least 20 to 30 minutes extra time for your journey compared to your normal routine. It is a matter of changing your mindset which will allow you to cope better with adverse conditions, especially if you’re not used to driving in them…

2 Check your tyres!

Your vehicle might boast all of the latest safety systems from lane keeping to automatic braking - but the most important thing on your ride are the tyres because they are of course the only point of contact your car has with the road. So, make sure they’re in good condition with at least 4mm of tread on them; the tread grooves aren’t there just to leave pretty patterns on the road - they help push excess water away and allow the rubber to make contact with the surface. If your tyres are worn, then you are basically just driving on a sheet of water which puts you in massive risk of ‘aquaplaning’…

What is aquaplaning?

When your vehicle loses traction on a wet road and begins to skid out of control, that is aquaplaning.

What to do if this happens to you…

Take your foot off the throttle, keep the steering wheel straight and allow your vehicle to cruise at a steady speed until it stops skidding, then you can regain control by gently braking to bring your speed down. Stay calm, regain your composure and carefully continue on your way.

3 Are your brakes in good order?

It is imperative that your brakes are checked before the rainy season so they give you enough stopping power. Make sure the pads, discs (and all the clamps and hoses) are in good order - and if you’ve already driven in the wet/heavily flooded road then it is a good idea to park up somewhere safe and pump the brake pedal for a 10-20 seconds as this will help to dry off the pads/discs and decrease their chances of slipping when you’re driving.

4 Do your lights work properly?

On any typical day here, you’ll see motorists who do not use their indicators when they are changing lanes or turning and several cars without their headlights on at night. Not only is this very annoying for other motorists it is of course very dangerous too – but throw in a sudden, heavy downpour and this not only makes the road wet it also affects light levels a great deal. So, make sure your lights are working and please, please, please remember to use them and indicate! And remember – use your hazard lights only when you have stopped on the road or at the side of the road – using them while driving can result in a fine and black points...

5 Clean your windows…

It’s only on the rare occasion when it rains here in the UAE that we need to use our wipers - but when you do suddenly need them and all they’re doing is smearing the water from left to right rather than wiping the window clean, you’re in trouble… Avoid this scenario by checking them regularly ensuring that the rubber makes proper contact against your windshield. Wiper blades deteriorate over time and in fact their longevity is seriously shortened here what with the heat and sand, so, check them regularly…

6 Be kind!

Show some compassion for others sharing the road with you especially ‘weaker’ traffic such as those on motorbikes or bicycles. Also, keep an even closer eye on pedestrians and as tempting as it is to drive through that puddle and splash them (gosh, you’re mean!), don’t do it! Firstly, how would you feel if you were on the receiving end of an unplanned shower and secondly you could end up aquaplaning and if that happens, remind yourself of what to do in tip number 2...

7 Don’t be a hero!

If things become really bad and you are left with zero visibility because of heavy rain then don’t be a hero and plod onwards on your journey, just pull over to the side of the road with your hazard lights on to help alert other motorists where you are or better yet pull into a petrol station or rest area until it is safe to continue with your trip.

8 Stay away from wadis!

If it is raining heavily, then the chances are very high that areas that are normally affected by bad weather such as wadis have flooded. So, avoid these areas totally – otherwise your trusted SUV could be the next vehicle we see floating helplessly down a stream on YouTube…

9 Ask your passengers to help…

Rather than have them gossip the whole way about this or that ask your passengers to help keep an eye out for oncoming cars and obstacles on the road instead. An extra pair of eyes never hurts – and above all, concentrate and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by them or your smartphone for that matter.

10 Listen for updates

Rather than mindlessly bop your head to your favourite tunes, how about switching to a station on your vehicle’s radio which has regular updates on the weather conditions and traffic situations instead? It could help more than Kanye or Rihanna will…