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Road Surfaces and Driving Skills

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 26 Sep 2015 | comments*Discuss
 
Road Surfaces Driving Skills

Driving is a very different experience depending on the circumstances around your journey. If the weather is very bad or you are on an irregular surface - such as sand then the way you drive and react to different situations will need to change.

The following are some hints and tips on how to stay safe using your knowledge and by adapting your driving skills according to the situation you are driving in.

Wet or Oily Surfaces:

The main concern here is skidding or 'aquaplaning'.

Aquaplaning is used to describe a situation where there is a build-up of water between the road surface and the car tyres, causing them to lose contact with the road surface - often leading to nasty accidents.

We all know wet surfaces and gravel roads increase the risk of our vehicle going into a skid. So when driving in these conditions you should try to remember the 'Smooth ABC' plan:

A: Accelerate smoothly
B: Brake smoothly
C: Corner smoothly.

Skidding is caused by one or a combination of the following things:

  • Motorists driving too fast
  • Too much acceleration
  • Sudden or too much braking
  • Faulty brakes
  • Wet or oily road surface
  • Losing traction - usually caused by over-steering.
When driving in these conditions, you can improve your chances of having a safe journey by reducing your speed and allowing the tyres to grip the road.

You should always make sure that your tyres have adequate tread (the legal limit is 1.5mm across the full width of the tyre) as inadequate treads and worn or 'bald' tyres are a recipe for disaster in the wet and are also illegal.

Heavy Rain and Fog:

The ways that we deal with heavy rain and fog are very similar. Both reduce visibility and can make normal stopping distances dangerous.
  • Keep your windscreen and all your lights clean
  • Turn your headlights on if you cannot clearly see other people or vehicles
  • Keep your headlights on low beam - in fog this gives better visibility than high
  • Turn on your fog lights if conditions are extremely hazardous.
  • Use air con or demisters to keep the windscreen clear.
The most sensible and important thing you can do in this situation is to slow down. Remember that the maximum signed speed limit is the maximum safe speed for driving in good conditions.

Double your following distance to give you more time to react. If the rain turns into flooding and you have to drive through deep water, drive slowly with your foot on the brake for a few moments. This will help the brakes to dry out.

Night Driving in Hazardous Conditions:

When you drive at night, your headlights, rear lights and rear number plate light must be switched on and clearly visible.

To see better, you should switch your headlamps to high beam where possible and/or drive more slowly so that you have ample time to react to the traffic conditions.

If you are dazzled by oncoming lights, keep left and look to the side. If you still cannot continue safely, slow down and stop until the other vehicle has passed you.

4 Wheel Drive Vehicles:

Driving a four-wheel-drive (4WD or 4x4) on or off-road can require different skills than those you need with a regular 2 wheel drive vehicle. Driving without learning the skills could cause damage to your vehicle and put you and your passengers in a dangerous situation.

It's important to remember that engaging your 4WD does not give your vehicle super grip, but creates more traction, so you are still susceptible to skids and slipping.

Driving Up Slopes:

Drive straight up or down a slope to reduce the likelihood of the vehicle rolling over. Due to their construction 4WD vehicles are usually more top-heavy than conventional cars, so don't expect it to react in the same way.

Use the brakes a little if you need to keep your grip on the road and accelerate lightly if your vehicle starts to slip sideways when you are driving down a sloped area of land.

Driving on Sand:

Any vehicle can lose traction on sand. Keep the momentum and avoid letting your wheels spin. If you need to improve traction in loose sand it can be done by deflating the tyres to increase the amount of tyre that you drive on - but don't lower the air pressure too much - you must make sure you keep in line with the manufacturers recommendations (these will be in your owner's handbook)Avoid any sharp turns, and drive slowly. Then once you are ready to drive on a hard surface (including wet sand) re-inflate your tyres.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
turkish1021 - Your Question:
Is there a set minimum distance for a mobile speed camera van to be set up 'inside; the posted sped limit.a van was set up, reading vehicles approaching that were at least 200m into the 30mpg zone, it however read my car travelling past it in the opposite direction entering the 30mph zone from a 60mph zone and was only about 20-30m into the zone.?do they have to be a minimum distance to allow for braking distances etc or can they prosecute 'post to post'.?thanks

Our Response:
No, once you're within a speed limit zone, you should be travelling at that speed, not still slowing down to that speed.
SaferMotoring - 29-Sep-15 @ 12:33 PM
is there a set minimum distance for a mobile speed camera van to be set up 'inside; the posted sped limit. a van was set up, reading vehicles approaching that were at least 200m into the 30mpg zone, it however read my car travelling past it in the opposite direction entering the 30mph zone from a 60mph zone and was only about 20-30m into the zone..? do they have to be a minimum distance to allow for braking distances etc or can they prosecute'post to post'...? thanks
turkish1021 - 26-Sep-15 @ 4:02 PM
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