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Top 5: Tips for driving during the winter months, according to MasterDrive

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The last of the summer sunshine has left our skies, and for many motorists, the rain, mist, and darker skies of winter lead to unpleasant situations while behind the wheel. But driver training organisation MasterDrive says this doesn’t have to be as daunting as we make it out to be.

Some of the suggestions made by MasterDrive Chief Executive Officer Eugene Herbert, and us here at The South African, might seem fairly obvious, especially if you’re an experienced motorist. But it’s the small details that can lead to catastrophic events when you’ve neglected to take care.

Sunrise and sunset

The sun rises a little later and sets earlier than many people who are familiar with driving during peak hours are familiar with. During summer, when you leave home at 7:30 to make a school run and get to the office by 9:00, the sun is already past the point where it negatively affects your driving. But because these patterns change during winter, it’s important to take the following into account.

  • Even if your car has an auto-on headlamp function, get into the habit of turning your headlamps on when getting into your car. Not just so that you can see better, but so you are visible to others while driving.
  • When given the opportunity, alter the times you are on the road so sunrise and sunset don’t make up the bulk of your time behind the wheel. Where you can, change your route so you spend less time looking into the sun.
  • Raise your seating position if your car offers that feature and also lower your visor immediately when getting into your car to avoid being blinded suddenly while driving when you least expect it.
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Misty and conditions

These are most likely those mornings when you look out and can barely see 50 metres down the road.

  • Remember to not use your high beams (bright setting) as that will accomplish nothing but hand enhanced light reflect off the moisture hanging in the air. It usually makes matter worse. Use your foglamps rather if your car is equipped with them.
  • The cooler conditions will bring those pre-existing problems your car has to the fore. Make sure your car is serviced just before winter (if not annually) and that your windscreen wipers are in decent condition.
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When it’s wet

  • Avoid driving through puddles of water. You don’t know if there’s a pothole that’s opened up underneath that’s just been filled with water. And don’t be tempted to wade down a flooded road just because you see a few SUVs and minibus taxis doing it. Rather find an alternative route.
  • Frost is another unknown for many South African drivers, but in colder areas it’s a real factor. Black ice is no joke so just brake earlier and turn in gently. Also, consider learning what to do in the event of a dramatic loss of traction so you’re not caught out.
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Reduce speed

The smartest thing to do when it’s raining and the roads are soaked is to reduce your speed. The old lubricant, rubber and fuel are all lifting from the tarmac when it rains. So before your tyres make contact with the road, it first meets old debris and fluids – contributing to decreased traction.

Glare be gone

Driving with sunglasses that have polarised lenses can really help reduce glare, even though other motorists will be puzzled. It’s also good practice to have your windscreen as clean as possible because your visibility can be reduced to zero when the sun shines directly through a dirty screen.

  • Avoid the dashboard cleaners that leave the surfaces in your car with a mirror finish, as this is a massive contributor to glare inside a car. You don’t need that lavender silicone spray

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