Monday, October 17, 2005

How to drive like a “Schumacher” in the rain?

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King of the rain – very much in control
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There is little doubt that Michael Schumacher is the king of the rain when it comes to Formula One. His very controlled style of driving has won him numerous races in the wet. Malaysia being in the tropics is no stranger to heavy thunderstorms. So, how does one drives like a Schumacher (Schumacher - in the sense of controlled driving, not racing)? Based on my own experience and observation of others are as follows:-

1. Slow down

For obvious reasons such as the road being slippery and visibility is low, I often slow down and if possible move to the left slower lane. I amazed of some idiots who maintain themselves at the fast lane, driving very slow, completely oblivious to the fact that there are some speed demons who drives fast even in the heavy rain.

This is based on a simple calculation: wet & slippery road + low visibility + fast moving vehicle = slow reaction time + slow braking.

2. Switch on the lights, not the hazard light

I switch on my headlights when it rains heavily but there are some idiots who go the extra mile to switch on their hazard lights. The fact that hazard lights are used when the vehicle is stationary causes vehicles to slow down or slam on their brakes to stop thinking that there is a car stopped at the middle of the road. It has happened to me several times (during my trip to Taiping). I slammed on my brakes only to find the car being driven slow on the fast lane.

Only once it came out true – a Toyota Camry had hit the divider, causing it to stop at the middle of the road. A quick thinking of the driver to switch on his hazard lights probably had avoided further accidents from happening.

3. Make sure the lights are working

Some drivers have good intention of switching on their lights when it rained but little they know that their lights are not working or is too dim to be seen from far. I confidently say that 80% of the trucks and buses have dim rear lights. Some of drivers who have “smoked” their rear lights are also part of this category. So, being extra careful and being able to detect a faint shadow in the rain is very useful in watching out for the trucks and buses.

4. Make sure your wipers are in good working condition

I am amaze on the poor condition of some of friend’s cars’ wipers. Yes, it swings on the windscreen but it does not clear the water from the windscreen effectively. My suggestion: periodically check on the effectiveness of the wiper and change if it needs to. It improves visibility tremendously. Add a good windscreen washer if it needs to clear the layer of oil from the windscreen.

5. Finally, make sure that your tires are up to the job
Good tires which have treads push out the water to give the tires effective traction of the road. Better traction means better control of the car. Always check on the condition of the tires. My Goodyear Eagle EA tires have run through 61,000 kilometers and it still working superbly in heavy rain. I will check on my tires every 2 weeks and have it balanced & aligned once a month or whenever it is necessary.

Finally, nothing beats a good driving in the rain than driving with a 101% concentration and be very defensive in driving. Anticipate the unexpected such as a big lorry appearing in front of you while you are driving at 100 km/h. Have exit plans to avoid sudden braking. Worst to worst, pull out at the nearest rest area and wait for the rain to stop.

(Picture source: www.luna.co.uk)
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