Driving under poor visibility

Weather condition in the Philippines isn't the most forgiving thing. It instantaneously changes and often does it hit so bad, you'd wish you were in a safe bunker isolated on top of a mountain. Seriously, it's harsh, especially when you're driving and in the middle of your trip. As most people say, “when nature hits, you can't really do anything about it.” 

Well, that may be argued but there are things you can do while you’re at it – that is, be calm, take extra precautions and stay safe. You must know and distinguish all the rightful things to do from the habits you tend to always do. Here, we pour you with tips that can help you through driving under low visibility.

Fog and rainstorms are among the most popular causes of poor visibility on the road. You'd often encounter them when you're at high places such as Tagaytay and Baguio. They go from mild to tolerable, and to the worst case-scenario where you would need to pull over and wait for it to pass. 

But, even if the circumstance is tolerable, you must take note of your speed. Not all drivers have a near-perfect vision and good reflexes like you. By reducing your speed, you lower the risk of you ending up in a rear-end collision or even being the cause of a much bigger problem. Don't be in a hurry – it's best to arrive to your destination in one piece. Be disciplined like a Japanese driver.

Switching your lights and parking lights will make it much easier for other drivers to see you. Heavy rain and fog bend light that even normal daytime running lights (DRL) are hard to see from afar. However, do mind though that switching onto high beams isn't really what you want to do, as the light will only be concentrated in the fog – making it even harder for you to see the road. 

This is where you'd also realize that blinking brake lights is not the smartest move. We mean, what are those for? Unless it’s a real case of emergency, you must refrain from doing it because you’ll just send wrong signals for fellow drivers on the road.

"Safety first!" as some may mumble while reaching for the hazard light switch. Again, switching your warning lights on without any emergency going on is actually a cause of hazard. Leaving your warning lights on while driving under poor visibility is very dangerous, as it negates you the ability to signal other vehicles that you're steering right or left. Here's a perfect example.

Also, having your warning lights on when you're not in an emergency, actually leaves confusion to other drivers. You might be mistaken as a stalled car at a distance, leaving you more risk of having your rear bumpers wrecked. You may also give emergency vehicles a hard time on distinguishing whether you need an assistance or not. Do yourself a favor, please? Use your normal lights and mind your speed. 

Reaction time is the key to staying away from accidents. But, do you know that good discipline and effective decision-making skills are your best allies? Reaction time varies depending on your speed, distance, physical status, and distractions. To avoid smashing the brakes and spontaneous steering (which are not recommendable), you must leave enough gap between your car and the one in front of you. 

So, how do you do it? Some people may suggest that you give an allowance of at least two to three imaginary vehicles between you and the car in front of you. While this is widespread knowledge, the most ideal way to do it is to give a three-second gap between you and the car in front. You measure this by making a pole or a tree on the side of the road as a reference point. When the car in front of you passes that object, count three seconds using the "one thousand" method (one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three).

The reason for this is that reaction time varies depending on how fast you are going. Going past 100 km/h would demand more space for you to react than a two to three-car gap.

Swerving under poor visibility isn't a great idea. You're a well-educated driver who's got your driver's license in the most rightful and honest way so own it. Change lanes only when it's necessary, like exiting a toll ramp on the expressway or avoiding a stalled car.  

Make sure that when you're changing lanes, signal at least 30 meters away. Assess the taillights in front of you before your make any move. Use your side and rearview mirrors to check for any light to see if there's a vehicle approaching.

Nope, you don't want to do this, especially on a two-lane road. Even when you see no light approaching, it is never safe to assume that it's clear to pass. Keep in mind that there may be cars out there with defective headlights. Always drive defensively and widen your mind about your surroundings.

The best way is to stay where you are. If the vehicle in front of you is slow, be more patient and wait till the weather clears out or till you could see enough. Don't risk your life over the two or three seconds you think you'd save by overtaking – it isn't worth it.

Tension in your body may affect your reactions and reaction time. The more tense you are, the more likely you are to commit something bad. Remember not to clench too hard on your steering wheel, sit properly and find your most comfortable position where you could see the road clearly, and don't overthink.

Relax, don't panic. The rainstorm will pass, the fog will dissipate, and you'll get to your destination – just take care and follow these tips. 

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