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With severe thunderstorms and heavy rain forecast for Gauteng for the rest of the week, here’s how to stay safe and protect your vehicle when they hit…

On Wednesday, the South African Weather Service warned of an intense cold front set to hit the Western and Northern Cape Provinces from Wednesday evening. It is expected to continue into Friday morning.

A warning was also issued for severe thunderstorms and a possibility of flooding over Gauteng, the north eastern parts of the North West, the western Highveld of Mpumalanga, Western Bushveld of the Limpopo and the extreme north eastern parts of Free State.

Increased possibility of accidents & damage to vehicles

The thunderstorms often cause traffic disruptions due to reduced visibility and strong damaging winds.

King Price’s partner of client experience, Wynand van Vuuren, who says that the Highveld’s legendary thunderstorms often lead to a spike in accidents and losses – but there are several ways to reduce your risk and exposure.

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1.     Know when thunderstorms are on the way

Staying up to date with the latest weather forecast has never been easier: simply turn on your weather app notifications before planning a trip or a commute. Or, if you’re old school, stay tuned to the weather reports on the radio or TV. “Then try and stay off the roads, if at all possible. Driving in a storm is risky, and no fun,” says Van Vuuren.

2.     Park your car under cover

Insurers see hundreds of claims for hail damage every year. The simplest way to avoid hail damage is to park your car in your garage, or under a carport. If you don’t have covered parking, you can use a car cover, or even a blanket, to minimise damage and protect your car’s most exposed surfaces, like the windscreen and bonnet.

3.     Find a safe place if you’re caught in a storm

If a severe thunderstorm starts when you’re on the road, stay calm, and use your GPS to get you to the nearest sheltered spot as quickly as possible, like a petrol station or an underground parking area in a shopping centre. “A tree doesn’t count as a safe place, as falling branches and debris can damage your car. And stopping under a bridge on the highway in the middle of a storm is neither safe nor advisable,” says Van Vuuren.

4.     Make sure your wipers are in top condition

In case you’re caught in a storm and there’s nowhere to go, your best defence is proactive preparation. Get your wipers checked before rainy season starts, and use water repellent for your windscreen, to make sure your visibility is as clear as possible while you’re on the road.

5.     Check your tyres are storm-worthy

In rainy weather, water creates a tiny barrier between the road and your tyres, which means you can lose traction and hydroplane. Thousands of accidents happen each year because of wet roads, and your preparation starts with your tyres: make sure they have at least 1mm tread depth, and that they’re inflated to the correct pressure, especially if your car hasn’t been driven for a while.

6.     Don’t skimp on your insurance

In spite of our best efforts, stuff happens. Make sure that you have comprehensive insurance for your pride and joy, which can help cover expenses related to thunderstorm damages, such as flash floods and bumper bashes. Many insurers, like King Price, also have specific ‘scratch and dent’ cover at a super-low excess.

“In short: prevention is better than cure. But when rainy weather hits, make sure you’re covered, one way or another! Be safe out there,” says Van Vuuren.

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