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What drivers in the UAE can do to adapt

Driving instructors warn motorists to keep a safe distance and use headlights when driving in rainy weather.

ABU DHABI // It was a rare opportunity yesterday for student drivers to get some wet weather experience at the Emirates Driving Company in Mussaffah.

"It gave them a good chance to practise safe driving in the rain," said Mustafa Muhsen, a 32-year-old Emirati who is in charge of the practical training section at the company.

Mr Muhsen urged drivers not to speed, which could lead to aquaplaning. This happens when water on the road accumulates in front of the car's tyres faster than the weight of the car can push it out of the way, causing the car to rise and slide on top of a thin layer of water.

Drivers should use their headlights and fog lights - but not hazard lights or high beams - in heavy rain. "Slow down, check your tyres, windscreen wipers and fill your washer fluid," Mr Muhsen said.

To steer out of a skid, release the brake pedal fully, release the accelerator and do not try to steer until the wheels regain some of their grip. Turn the steering wheel in the same direction as the skid, he said.

Theory lessons at Belhasa Driving Centre in Dubai cover driving through floods. Drivers must increase the safe following distance from two seconds to four seconds, drive slower than the speed limit and avoid harsh braking since the tyres will not get the grip, according to Saif Belhasa, chairman of the centre.

Robert Hodges, chief operating officer at Emirates Driving Institute in Dubai, offered tips on driving in heavy rain last month in response to severe weather warnings. Before setting off, drivers should set the heater or AC controls to defrost, as rain makes the windows mist up in seconds. They should try to avoid spray from the vehicle in front.

Motorists should drive defensively at all times and expect other drivers to make errors of judgement. The use of cruise control should be avoided to reduce the risk of aquaplaning, he said.

* Ramona Ruiz

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