9 Road Conditions That Can Impact Performance and Everyday Driving
Posted by: Dan on 11/09/2014
There are a variety of road and weather conditions that can prove challenging to drive in. Tyre selection can make a significant difference in performance; positively or negatively, depending on what type of tyre you outfit your vehicle with.
Here are 9 road conditions that can impact performance and everyday driving.
1. Nighttime Driving
The primary challenge with nighttime driving is visibility. It's much harder to see in the dark than it is during the day, and because you are more likely to be tired at night, it can be difficult to stay alert. This means you reaction time may be slower than usual.
To ensure safe nighttime driving, remember to use your headlights, and travel at a safe speed. Also remember to look slightly to the left to avoid being blinded by the headlights of oncoming traffic.
Nighttime driving may not require a specific type of tyre, but tread wear can play a part in your overall traction. If you are driving in other conditions like rain at night, see below.
2. Sun Glare
Both direct and reflected sunlight can make driving more challenging, and sometimes even outright hazardous. Make good use of your sunglasses as well as your sun visors to mitigate the blinding effect of the sunlight, and pull off to the side of the road if the situation necessitates it.
Again, like nighttime driving, the type of tyre you use may not have a direct impact on your ability to drive in the sun, unless you are using the wrong kind of tyre.
3. Gravel Or Dirt Roads
Tyres generally have reduced traction on loose gravel, making your steering less precise. Because of this, maintaining control of your vehicle on gravel or dirt roads is a little more challenging than on paved roads.
From visibility factors (kicking up dust clouds) to flying stones, there are many things to beware of on gravel or dirt roads. The main thing is to reduce your speed, as this will help you to retain control of your car.
As for specific types of tyres, off-road tyres are ideal for gaining traction on gravel or dirt roads.
Image: melanie cook
Fog can impact visibility, making it difficult to see what's ahead on the road. It commonly occurs in the mornings and evenings.
There are a few key things to remember when driving in fog. Make sure to maintain a safe driving distance between vehicles; more so than usual. Then, don't forget to stay alert, use your fog lights if you have them, and reduce speed as necessary.
Fog is usually indicative of wet or damp road conditions, though that's not always the case. As such, it is essential to adjust your speed and be aware of the need for increased stopping distance. As a general rule, we suggest allowing a 4 second gap between yourself and the vehicle ahead of you to allow for increased stopping distance.
Image: Kieran Palmer
The condition and quality of your tyres will have a fairly direct impact on your ability to drive in the rain. In fact, your tyres will determine how fast you can safely drive under such conditions (thought it is a good idea to reduce your speed regardless). Overall, however, speed is less of an issue than braking distance, so make sure to leave a safe following distance between your vehicle and other vehicles.
Tyres that have central water-clearing grooves in the tread, and siping at the edges of the tread can help them bite into corners. These tyres can help you gain traction, even on wet pavement.
Driving on icy roads requires a lot of care, and should be avoided if at all possible. Here are several steps you can follow to ensure safe driving on icy roads:
- Reduce speed, and leave plenty of room to stop.
- When you need to stop or slow down, brake gently to avoid skidding.
- Use low gears to keep traction, particularly in hilly areas.
- Avoid accelerating while turning.
The regular servicing of your vehicle, as well as your experience level with driving on ice can play a part in ensuring your safety on icy roads.
Rain can cause dirt roads to turn to mud, making them more slippery than usual. Hilly or highly trafficked roads can be all the more dangerous in mud.
There are a few basic steps to driving safely in muddy conditions:
- Drive slowly.
- Avoid stomping on the accelerator or brake pedals, as this can get your car stuck.
- If you have a standard rear wheel drive vehicle, put some weight in the back of your car.
- Drive on the higher areas of the road (avoid the ruts).
- Do not hold the brakes for long. Shift to a lower gear if possible.
- Steer into the slide if you begin to lose control.
Some tyres have been specifically built for various terrains like off-road conditions, as well as mud. These are typically for 4WDs or SUVs. If you are going to be spending a lot of time in the mud, these are your best bet.
8. Dry Roads
Most standard tyres are suitable for dry road conditions. Always remember to check the wear on your tyres to ensure safety.
In general, dry roads provide the safest conditions for all drivers. The best time to be on the road is during the day.
Depending on the road, there may be small gaps where asphalt is missing. Potholes can cause considerable damage to tyres and make your car swerve as result. Swerving, of course, can lead to collisions. These problems are only magnified under less-than-ideal road conditions.
In general, a quality tyre can help you from losing total control. However, if you can avoid driving over potholes altogether (without swerving dangerously or driving erratically), that would be ideal.
Are there any other factors to consider when choosing a tyre? What weather or road conditions have been the most challenging for you to drive in?
Let us know in the comments below!