The recent downpours in Gauteng have, once again, highlighted one of the major issues of driving in SA – a lack of wet weather driver training.
I commute between Randburg and Centurion every single day and let me tell you, I’ve seen some pretty idiotic driving maneuvers recently.
The worst I’ve seen was a driver aquaplaning just after the R511 turn-off on the N14. On that day I happened to be driving the Toyota Land Cruiser V8, so I was fairly confident travelling at 80km/h in the pouring rain. I know that road fairly well, so I knew in advance that there’d be a pool just after the turn-off, as always. It’s never too deep, but hitting it at speed would definitely unsettle the average car.
I was in the right hand lane, keeping a close eye on the traffic around me. Everyone was basically travelling at the same speed due to the weather conditions, so there was no overtaking taking place on that particular stretch of road.
All of a sudden I noticed a set of weak headlights in my rear view mirror. A car was approaching quite fast. The driver flashed his lights at me, warning me to get out of the way. I humbly recognized his superior driving prowess and promptly moved out of the way.
Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be an old Toyota Conquest. This guy was either the reincarnated spirit of Evel Knievel, or he simply had no idea what he was getting himself into. It turned out to be the latter.
I slowed way down, not wanting to partake in the accident about to take place. The guy hit the puddle and as any reasonable person would have expected, started aquaplaning. Somehow he caught it again, but I think it was sheer dumb luck and not talent that saved him.
I know this for a fact, because when I overtook him shortly after, his eyes were as big as a 19-inch alloy.
He was lucky.
Others aren’t so lucky. The very next day I drove past the scene of a very nasty motorcycle accident. The lack of urgency from the paramedics standing around a covered lump in the road confirmed the worst.
I don’t like to speculate, but since there were no other vehicles involved in the accident, and the fact that the accident took place at a bend in the road, leads me to believe that the rider lost control in the wet. The pieces of broken bike scattered over roughly 200 metres reveals that the rider wasn’t travelling at a leisurely pace.
Perhaps it wasn’t even his fault. Another inattentive driver could have pulled in front of him, leaving him no room to maneuver. Either way, it was a senseless tragedy that could have been avoided.
I’m always astounded at the lack of common sense when it rains. Or perhaps it’s not a lack of common sense, but rather a lack of proper driver training?
I’m nowhere near what you’d call a talented driver, but I’ve attended many advanced driving courses over the years. I know what to look out for and how a car feels when it’s approaching the limits of adhesion.
Fortunately for me, speed isn’t something I find particularly appealing, so I rarely go in search of a vehicle’s limits. It’s not the most interesting way of commuting, but it’s kept me alive so far.
That’s why I think people just don’t know and perhaps something should be done about it. The driver training one receives to get an SA license is nowhere near enough to equip you for the hazards you’ll face on the road, especially during the rainy season.
I doubt if aquaplane man even had an idea what aquaplaning was up until that very moment he hit the puddle. Hopefully, he’s learned his lesson. At the very least, I hope he typed the word aquaplane into Google.