As the weather grows worse in Peninsular Malaysia due to the haze and this becoming an annual or bi-annual occurance, conditions may prompt the average person to stay indoors instead of out. Escaping into our cars might seem an easy call, but if the haze is sufficiently thick, it could pose a safety risk.
Being able to see out of your car onto the road ahead is paramount to the practice of driving properly – we’re sure we don’t have to tell you – and with visibility reduced like it is in some areas of the country, we need to be prepared. The haze in Malaysia can vary from day to day or even in a matter of hours from moderate to bad or vice versa.
Let’s run down some simple but vital tips to get you through a situation where you're faced with a terrible haze while driving, the kind that could cause dangerous visibility issues:
1. Check all your car lights - The worst affected areas to be stricken by the haze are highways because, in contrast to city driving, cars will likely be further in the distance and barely recognizable due to poor haze-induced visibility.
In either situation, city or highway, making sure your headlights, tail lamps, and signal blinkers are working properly is one of the most basic requirements before driving, and doubly important in a haze. Ensure your car can be seen from as far a distance as possible from behind or in front.
2. Fog lamps are useful – If you’ve got fog lamps fitted to your car then now would be the time to use them. While these lower-mounted lamps don’t provide much by way of out-and-out forward visibility for you, the driver, it does make your car considerably more noticeable in these kinds of situations and creates a blanket of illumination around the front of your car. Hence the name.
3. Keep A Steady, Low Speed – Now we’re not advocating driving unreasonably slowly (that can be as dangerous, if not more so, than speeding in low visibility situations), but maintaining a steady speed can give drivers ahead or behind assurance of your position relative to theirs to allow both you and them to plot sure-footed maneuvers. Also, it is important to signal early to give other drivers ample time to react accordingly.
4. Please, No High Beam – As tempting and logical as it may seem, a high headlight beam doesn’t really help anyone in hazy, low-visibility road conditions. It won’t shine far enough to illuminate far-away obstacles like it would normally and, should you drive by another driver, it can be a dangerous distraction.
When you switch on the high beam headlights in a heavy haze, you're merely illuminating the dense dust particles just ahead of your car, and the resulting glare reflected back to you would further impede your vision.
5. And Keep Your Distance – This point kind of ties into keeping a steady, slow(er) speed. The lowered visibility severely impedes the ability to react quickly. Give yourself more time to react by leaving room ahead of the next car. If you see an obstacle approaching, just remain calm and, if possible, thread your car around it without slowing down significantly (ideally by just letting your car coast with your foot off the accelerator). If you have to apply the brakes, do so gradually and as gently as possible. And you'd be able to, since you've been keeping a safe distance.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.