Wet Weather Driving Tips

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Read about 'Wet Weather Driving Tips' on USAVE, the place for all things car rental.

Weather conditions in New Zealand vary greatly from one end of the country to the other and are unpredictable at the best of times so it’s important to be prepared and drive accordingly.

Extreme wet weather is something you could strike in any part of the country at any time of the year, but it is most prevalent during the winter months. Water logged soil and heavy rainfall can result in flooding, slips or landslides and excess road surface water. Areas particularly prone to heavy rainfall include the west coast of the South Island and the very far north of the North Island.

Wet Weather Driving In NZ

When driving on New Zealand roads it is a good idea to drive to the conditions and take a little time to plan ahead. For our top 11 tips on wet weather driving in New Zealand take a look below.

1. Reduce Speed

The most important thing you can do in wet weather is stay in control of your vehicle. Having made sure the steering and brakes are serviced regularly on your vehicle, as a driver you can improve your handling and reaction times by slowing down and driving more cautiously than usual.

2. Increase Following Distances

The time and distance it takes to stop your vehicle will greatly increase in extreme wet weather. It is important to leave enough room between you and the vehicle in front of you to be able to react under unforeseen circumstances.

3. Avoid Large Masses Of Surface Water

Even if you are driving a specialised off-road vehicle, in times of heavy rain large puddles can become deceptively deep. If the vehicles exhaust or other mechanisms become submerged in the water it may cause the vehicle to stall leaving you stranded.

4. Look After Your Brakes

When driving under extreme wet weather conditions a vehicle’s brakes can become damp causing a delayed response or even become completely unresponsive. Obviously this is a very dangerous situation to find yourself in and best avoided if you wish to keep control of your vehicle.

5. Check For Weather Warnings

If there’s dangerous weather approaching, it will be mentioned on one of the many radio or television news stations around the country, on local weather forecast websites and in weather apps. Asking the locals is always a good idea too, especially if you are in flood or slip-prone areas.

6. Don’t Panic If Skidding Occurs

Even the most careful drivers can find themselves caught in a skid. If this situation arises it is important not to panic, avoid slamming on the brakes (which tends to be most people’s instinctive reaction) instead gradually allow the vehicle to slow while attempting to steer it in the direction you wish it to go.

7. Check Tyres Before Setting Out

Good tyres play a big factor in road safety whether the roads are wet or not, ensuring they have the required tread depth and inflation levels before setting out on any road trip is crucial. Don’t forget to check the spare tyre as well.

8. Avoid Using Cruise Control

While cruise control and other driver assistance technologies are useful in ideal driving conditions, the chance of losing control of the vehicle can increase when used under wet or difficult conditions. Drivers should be in full control of the vehicle and concentrating on every aspect of driving in order to respond accordingly, cruise control features can delay the driver’s ability to reduce speed hastily.

9. Increase Your Visibility

If it is raining hard enough to mean the windshield wipers are on it is a good idea to turn your head lights on, even if you don’t need them to see the road ahead. Greater visibility is always a bonus for you, other motorists and pedestrians.

10. Take Extra Care After Dry Periods

When rain occurs after a long dry spell the build-up of grease, dirt and other surface matter can cause the road surface to become unusually slippery. Being aware of the phenomenon means drivers can reduce speeds and act accordingly.

11. Travel During Daylight Hours

Where possible travelling in the rain is best completed during daylight hours. Visibility, driver alertness and the ability to make regular pit-stops at local cafes, stores and places along the way increases during the day. Safety always comes first, if the weather is really bad pull over in a safe place and wait it out.

Wet Weather Driving Checklist

Taking a road trip in New Zealand? Here is a quick checklist of some things you need to know in order to stay safe in wet conditions. 

  • Plan ahead, check weather conditions on the day of travel.
  • Check windscreen wipers, lights and indicators to ensure they are working properly.
  • Check tyre pressure, and tread depth.
  • Turn head lights on, especially in very heavy rainfall.
  • Be extra cautious of slow moving vehicles, animals or other potential hazards on the road.
  • Avoid ending up in a situation where there is a need to brake suddenly.
  • Overestimate travelling times when driving in the rain, it will always take longer.
  • Avoid overtaking unless absolutely necessary.
  • Keep your full attention on the road ahead.
  • Take regular breaks from driving.
  • Pull over if visibility deteriorates.

Mobile Phones And Driving

Safe driving requires driver’s full attention to the road and to what is going on around them. This includes but is not limited to nearby pedestrians, other vehicles and traffic lights and signage. Driving while using a mobile phone is a proven distraction and slows reaction times.

It is against the law to use a mobile phone while driving in New Zealand unless a hands free device is installed in the vehicle. Texting while driving is not allowed under any circumstances. Drivers ignoring these rules will be fined.

Some people underestimate rainfall as a potential driving hazard, not realising the many ways it can compromise your control and ultimately endanger you and your passengers. The best thing to do is exercise caution, drive slowly and carefully, and stay up to date on local weather conditions. In the event of an emergency always dial 111.