How to handle driving during a heatwave

Summer is here, and with it a radical rise in temperature than can take its toll on both motorists and cars. We look at how to keep a cool head on the road

28 October 2019 - 11:52 By Motoring Reporter
Hot weather can play havoc with motorists and vehicles.
Hot weather can play havoc with motorists and vehicles.
Image: adamgregor / 123rf

Most parts of Gauteng have another hot day in store as temperatures reach as high as 37°C. This intense weather is set to increase as we head deeper into summer. If you will be spending large parts of your day in the car, you are more vulnerable to heat stress or heatstroke, which pose a risk to your physical wellbeing and to your ability to drive safely.

The managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, advises reducing the amount of time spent in the car.

“Life, however, does carry on despite the weather so avoiding the car completely is impossible. In these instances, take precautions to ensure you do not suffer from heatstroke or have an accident.”

  • Avoid travelling during peak times. Try leaving earlier or later to avoid gridlocked traffic.
  • Use your air-conditioner. Open windows cannot regulate the temperature as well as an air-conditioner. If you do not have aircon, avoid driving during peak heat times.
  • Stay hydrated. Symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, lack of energy and even fainting, which obviously become much more dangerous if you are behind the wheel. If you think you are dehydrated, ask someone to help you get medical care rather than continuing driving.
  • Keep your car maintenance up to date. Ensure your car has enough coolant to handle the higher temperatures.
  • Inflate your tyres correctly. Under-inflated tyres cause more friction and therefore heat. You are also at risk of a blow out with over-inflated tyres as air expands with heat.
  • If your engine starts to overheat, pull over immediately and call for assistance. Driving further can cause serious damage your car.
  • Wear sunglasses while driving to protect your eyes from UV rays. Polarised lenses are most effective to reduce glare.
  • When you park your car, try to park in a shady spot or invest in a sun shade so your hands are not burned when you get back into the car. The steering wheel and seats can easily reach temperatures more than 40°C. When the temperature outside is 35°C, the interior can reach 47°C in just an hour. 

Of particular concern is the tendency of some people to leave pets and children in hot cars.

“Temperatures in cars can reach deadly levels in less than an hour - even without a heatwave. Within that time an adult can suffer third-degree burns and a child can die. Even cars parked in the shade are dangerous as it just takes slightly longer for them to heat up. Never leave your child or pet in the car, even for few minutes.

“Other parts of South Africa remain at high risk of veld fires as dry, hot conditions persist. Weather warnings have also been issued to prepare for damaging winds. Whatever weather you encounter on the roads, remember to always employ defensive driving techniques to ensure you arrive safely,” says Herbert.

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