Rush hour and rains are a very potent combination and one which can escalate out of control should the heavens open up in earnest and without respite. Even when it is neither rush hour nor raining, the roads can hold nasty surprises during the rainy season.
Here are a few pointers to help you have a safe motoring monsoon.
The first rains: The roads become treacherously slippery when the first rains of the season fall. The water combines with all the dust to form a slippery layer of grime that renders the road as friction free as oiled glass. Two-wheeler riders should especially watch out, since even touching the brakes will result in a skid and a fall. Even car drivers will have scary moments if they brake too hard or turn too fast.
Time and distance: Always rethink the time you’ll take for your commute. During the monsoons, delays and jams can increase the time you usually take over your daily distance. Factor that in and leave earlier.
Gently does it: Be gentler than you are with your driving. Hard braking and hard acceleration on wet roads is inviting trouble. Keep 1.5 times more distance than you usually would between your car and the car ahead.
Stay dry: Dry your shoe soles on the mat and check that your car’s pedals have rubbers on them. Wet soles often slip off bare metal pedals.
Get rain gear if you’re going to ride in the rains: On a two-wheeler, it is very dangerous to ride with the pillion holding an umbrella over the driver’s head. It can hamper vision and a strong gust of wind can unbalance the pillion and the scooter or motorcycle.
Dip those headlights: It is bad road etiquette to drive with your headlights on highbeam and during the rains it is dangerous as you tend to dazzle the oncoming traffic and not in a good way.
Roads: Tarmac gets eaten up during the rains. Some dangerous areas are signal junctions and crossroads, where there is always gravel and potholes. Slow down as you approach these.
If you feel that the waters are too deep, don’t attempt to go through. If you do plan on tackling the road, then observe the path traffic is taking through it — it will help you gauge the depth of the water. Go through at a steady momentum without lifting off the throttle. This is especially important if your exhaust is under water. Once you exit the flood, rev hard to expel water from the exhaust and check your brakes.
If they feel spongy, drive at a steady pace with the brakes gently applied — this will dry them out.
Stay on higher ground
If water does get sucked into the exhaust and the car starts stalling, try to get to higher ground immediately. Do not try to constantly start the engine as this will simply drain the battery. After about 40 minutes with the exhaust sitting out of the water, try and start the engine — it should start. The car might stutter and skip a beat or two, but it should work fine in a while. Also, never let your fuel tank run all the way to reserve, have half a tank of fuel at the very least all the time.
In case you’re stuck and need to spend many hours in the car and it is raining, then keep the engine and the AC running. Do not sit in the car with the windows closed and the AC off.
If the floods are so deep that you feel that you need to leave your car behind, try and do so on higher ground. The best place to avoid flooding is the slopes of the city’s many flyovers. On a two wheeler, you shouldn’t attempt a waterlogged road if the level of water is above the bike’s air intake or air filter.
Be prepared for emergencies
Even with the best of precautions, you may encounter emergencies and situations that need quick, decisive handling.
Here are a few pointers.
Be prepared: If, unfortunately, you do get stuck in a situation where rising waters are a very real danger you need to be prepared to abandon your car. Also remember that if waters are rising rapidly, it is prudent to quickly abandon your car and get your passengers and yourself to higher and safer ground. For this, always have a small emergency kit at hand. Remember, it should be in the car cabin within easy reach — putting it in the boot makes no sense.
Pack these up
A bottle of water and some energy source like biscuits, dry fruits or energy bars.
Watertight plastic bags to put your valuables (phone, wallet etc) in when you have to wade through water.
A small torch
A small sturdy hammer to break the glass in case you are locked inside your car with no battery power.
To break window glass, to give it a few firm taps at a top corner to shatter it and then break it further with a fist wrapped