From flash floods to torrential rain and icy winter mornings, Australia is fraught with hazardous weather to contend with. And if you happen to be on the road when Mother Nature is at her meanest, then you’ll be at serious risk of an accident if you don’t act accordingly.

So rather than forking out for an eye-watering panel beating bill, pay attention to the following five tips on how to drive safely in adverse conditions.

1. Keep a safe distance behind the car in front of you

It doesn’t matter how much of a hurry you’re in, tailgating in bad weather is poor form. Even when conditions are perfect, and you’re paying full attention to the road, you still need to keep a distance of at least two seconds behind the car in front of you; otherwise, you’ll rear-end them should they suddenly come to a screeching stop—and yes, you will be the party at fault.

When it’s wet, however, that distance doubles to four seconds. How so? The excess water on the road reduces the friction of your tires and dramatically inhibits your ability to brake. But what about when you’re driving on icy roads? You’ll need to stay a whopping eight seconds behind because ice and snow offer virtually no friction at all (consider snow chains here).

2. Take it easy when braking and accelerating

While your car may handle like a dream when it’s dry, your well-threaded tires will struggle to grip the tarmac in the wet. Braking too suddenly or heavily in the rain could cause your car to skid, potentially seeing you spin out of control and causing a nasty accident. Regaining control of your ride once you start to skid can be a challenging feat, so it’s always best to brake early and slowly. In icy road conditions, even the lightest touch on the brakes could see you aquaplane out of control.

The same concept applies to accelerating. Should you put too much pedal to the medal at the traffic lights, you’ll lose traction and risk a potential prang.

3. Don’t tempt fate by crossing a flood plane

Although it may be tempting to take your chances and cautiously cruise over a floodwater-stricken road, it’s simply not worth the risk. It may look shallow and harmless, but a mere 15cm of water is enough to flood your exhaust and air intake, instantly immobilizing your car. And should you venture into 30cm or more, the sheer pressure of moving water (one tonne per metric metre) will be enough to wash your ride away.

Even if you live to talk about the experience, your car is going to be a write-off, and your insurance company will be reluctant to help.

4. Drive slowly and plan ahead

One fundamental thing every driver must learn is the importance of driving to the conditions. If the roads are wet or visibility is poor, you’ll stand a much better chance of getting there safely by reducing your speed. There’s no hard and fast rule of how slow you should go, so make a judgment call and err on the side of caution.

And with all this slow driving you’ll be doing, you need to plan your schedule accordingly. Leave earlier than usual to ensure you’re not still on the road after sundown.

5. Keep up with your maintenance

Keeping your car in good nick is a sure-fire way to reduce the chances of running into trouble during adverse weather. Tires are the first thing you need to look at; make sure you’ve got plenty of threading and swap in a new set if they’re running bare. Next, double-check all your lights are in good working order, including the low and high beams, the brake lights, and your hazards. Finally, don’t neglect your windscreen wipers, which need to be soft, flexible, and connect evenly across the entire windshield.

By keeping the above tips in mind, you’ll hopefully avoid having a prang next time the heavens open up. And if luck isn’t on your side, contact the team at Brighton Panel Works to organise paintless dent removal in Melbourne. With more than 50 years of experience, Brighton Panel Works is the preferred choice for trusted body repairs within Melbourne’s inner city and bayside precincts.