Driving to the conditions – What does it mean?

Everyone use this term so loosely. Does it mean drivers only need to consider the weather or is there more to it?

Over the years, this had been a very popular response when a driver crashed off the road. Something had happened and the driver was unable to handle the situation, the first thing people would say was. “He or she did not drive to the conditions!” This may be true in some cases but I ask, “What do we expect drivers to know?”

Adapting to adverse weather conditions by slowing down, increasing following distances or turning on the headlights just makes sense. Sometimes there may be more trucks and caravans on the road. Trucks and vehicles towing trailers have speed limits of ninety kilometres per hour. Passing opportunities may be limited so we expect all drivers to be patient and not to take risks when trying to pass.

Road signs and markings may be misleading drivers who are unfamiliar to particular roads. The posted speed limit may show 100 km/h, but the road may be windy with sharp bends and several roadside hazards, but drivers will try to drive as close to the limit as possible.

Many drivers do not even consider potential roadside hazards. Some people may argue that it is irrelevant because it is off the road and drivers should stay on the road.

Here is one example where a driver may have no other choice but to swerve out.

An oncoming vehicle suddenly veers over into the path of a driver’s vehicle and the only option to avoid a crash is to swerve out to the left. There may not be enough road width left to recover, it forces the driver to go off the road. If there is a ditch, culvert, tree, power pole, or any other solid object, the occupants in that vehicle may be in serious trouble.

What are drivers to do then? Always be alert and look out for situations where you will have to take counter action. Like when there is a car behind a truck looking like it wants to pass. When you see roadside hazards, especially on narrower roads, take extra care, and slow down.

On most of our rural roads that are not state highways, safe travel speeds are well below a hundred kilometres per hour.

Going slower gives a driver more time to react and significantly reduces the risk of serious injury or death in case you end up in a crash. Make sure you and all your passengers buckle in properly.

Safer journeys!

Daniel Naudé

South Canterbury road safety coordinator