How to survive driving in different weather conditions
The Philippines experiences unpredictable weather patterns despite only having two major seasons- summer (March to June) and the rainy season (July to February). Drivers must be able to adapt to these weather changes, especially if they plan on taking a long drive. Below are some helpful tips on how to survive different weather conditions when driving.
Plan your route
If you have information (say a weather report from a local TV station) about the driving conditions you should expect, use it to your advantage. One of the things you should consider doing is researching the flooded areas in your city or neighborhood to find out alternative routes. Take for example this list of flood-prone areas in Metro Manila from the MMDA.
When planning your route, do not necessarily take the shortest one out there. Other factors that you should keep in mind are the expected amount of vehicles that may use the same route, the amount of establishments that could assist you in case of an emergency (towing, gasoline station, etc.) and the road’s terrain, whether part of it is under construction or known to have many pot holes. Your plan need not be a complex one, just an easy-to-follow guide with contingencies.
Monitor your tire pressure
Some of the older car models are not equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system. If your car is one of these, you must do it manually either using a gauging tool or through observation. If you are driving and you notice that one side of the car seems “off”, stop your car and inspect if one of the wheels is flat. Seek the nearest gasoline station or vulcanizing shop and have it fixed immediately.
If your trunk or rear cargo area has room, make sure to carry at least one spare tire. Also have your tool box kit, especially your jack and lug wrench. You may never know when they will come in handy. Aside from tire pressure, make sure that their threads are not damaged and still have good traction.
Stock up on fluids
During the summer season, your car’s engine is more prone to overheating. As this period is the best time to take a vacation in the countryside, long driving could pose several problems to your car, especially if it is not properly maintained. Before going to that warm beach, make sure your car is in good running condition and has the proper fluid levels- especially oil and brake fluids. During your trip make sure you have enough water not only for you and your passengers, but also to keep the car’s engine cool and running.
Check your car’s electrical system
When your trip is unavoidable, even in torrential rain, make sure that your electrical system is running well. Perform a routine check on your wipers, headlights, horn, taillights, turn lights, door locks and radio.
When driving in the rain, make sure you have maximum road visibility by turning on your wipers and headlights. Also be wary of your surroundings, especially the water level on the road as some car models have a lower wading depth meaning their electrical systems sit lower on their frame. Also listen to the news on the radio so you can avoid congested or flooded roads.
Always keep a safe distance behind
“Distancia, Amigo” is a well known sticker often seen on many cars in the country- and for good reason. Keeping a distance of about a car length for every 15 kilometers per hour (kph) you are travelling means you can brake effectively if an incident arises. Say for example you are driving your car on the South Luzon Expressway where the minimum speed is 100 kph. A good distance would be at least 7 car lengths or approximately 20 meters.
Even if you are stuck in slow moving traffic, make sure to keep a good distance between you and car ahead. On rainy days, the stopping distance above should be doubled.
Keep important numbers handy
Even when you are just on your daily route to work and not experiencing severe weather conditions, it is advisable to keep the emergency numbers of government agencies that could help you should worse come to worst. Below is a list of useful contact information of some agencies related to traffic and road user’s safety:
MMDA Hotline: 136 or 882 4154
PNP Hotline: 117 or 722-0650 (for Metro Manila)
Red Cross Hotlline: 143 or 527-0000
Department of Health: 711-1001
Know when to take a break
Stopping and letting the storm pass could be one of the best decisions you will ever make. This is especially true if you are experiencing near zero-visibility on the road. Heavy downpours can easily cause your car to slip. Choose a parking lot, like a local diner or hotel where both you and your vehicle can get some rest.
Remember, sometimes it’s more cost effective to delay some of your appointments (especially if a natural disaster is the cause) than getting your car fixed the next day for trying to beat the weather.