Storm Driving

Reporter: Graeme Butler

As driving conditions go, it doesn't get much worse than this - the height of the storm that battered perth earlier this year.. Todd Pender from the SES was out in it. "During that storm back in March the visibility was reduced considerably and you need to drive to those conditions"

Many drivers were caught in the middle of the tempest... wet roads... driving hale and shocking visibility - so what do you need to do to stay in control behind the wheel - brett Hughes from Curtin-Monash Accident Research centre. "In the storm adjust your speed so it's appropriate for the circumstances, the visibility ging to be different the weather's going to be different the road surface is going to be different adjust your speed take care of the circumstances"

To simulate extreme driving conditions, we've come to the RAC driving centre near Perth Airport.... Dave Mynan is behind the wheel to show us how to react to the unexpected. "A lot of drivers will driver around based on insitint and what you've got to try and incorperate into your driving is a logical thought process instinct will kick in that's natural and then you've got to over-ride that with a logical process - all in a split second"

First test is braking distance - at just 60km/h - the track's wet but otherwise good conditions - Dave is an experience drive instructor and with ABS brakes it still takes several metres to pull up and not before cleaning up the cones.

Throw into the mix evasive action like this swerve and Dave pulls off a manouvure that most of us probably wouldn't manage.

ABS braking allows you to continue steering while the brakes are engaged... but if your car doesn't have ABS. be careful you risk locking up in the wet with a loss of steering control.... "the consideration is try and ease the brake pressure on and not stab the brake in one big hit losing traction with the wheels you've no control over the steering and the braking distance will actually increase trying to keep the rotation of the wheel is the trick"

To demonstrate we'll use a car with no ABS... it's also fitted to a frame to reduce friction simulating wet conditions.. watch what happens..the brakes lock up and the steering is rendered useless. The most important check for wet weather driving is your tyres simple but so often ignored. Brett says "it's critical because that's the thing that's keeping the vehicle under control and stuck to the road it's important because an under inflated tyre or an over inflated tyre won't give you good grip and good grip is the thing that most critically important for safe driving"

Dave says "you're braking distance is going to be dramatically increased and this iswhere you've got to start leaving that extra space behind the car in front tyre pressure is very important as well graeme under inflated tyres will actually start to aquaplqane and that's going to have a serious effect on how you control the vehicle."

To show you just how grip affects you car, we'll use the vehicle fitted with the frame. It lifts the car slightly reducing traction. Watch what happens.

the braking distance is lengthened and the car slides. Dave is an experienced driver trainer - I'm not

the common mistake i made was keeping my foot on the accelerator. "There's some theories floating around - if in doubt power out. Don't forget what got you in ht esituation to start with probabkly too much speed or too much power you've got to stay away from that pedal. Stay away form the brak once you lock your wheels you can't steer and that when you have to focus on where you want to go"

When the weather hits hard - the advice is be prepared and change your driving habits to suit the conditions and consider others on the road. Todd says "there's oils on the surface of them and again there may be debris on the ground you may not see the power lines there and again i need to stress that the emergency services personael are working in those conditions and you may not see them and you need to be mindful of their safety"

Brett says "we still see people driving through blacked out traffic signals at 60 kms which is complete nonsense"

Wet Weather Driving Tips

Expect the Unexpected.

Emergency vehicles, utility workers, road workers, SES Workers.

Lost loads.

Traffic jams.

Idiots.

Roads will be different

Surfaces may be slippery or flooded.

May be oil on road.

Street lights may be out.

May be debris on road.

Vehicles react differently in the wet

Aquaplaning

Losing traction

Can skid

Visibility

Rain, Hail, Splash

Flooded roads

Poor light

Plan ahead

Get good information

Make sure your car is roadworthy ( check tyres aren't over or under inflated)

Don't' drive if you don't have to .

Don't take risks