Brian’s Column: The wet roads of Africa call for water safety tips!

Brian’s Column: The wet roads of Africa call for water safety tips!

YOURS is back after a short summer break with an exclusive Brian's Column, our correspondent on youth and road safety issues in Africa. In this column, Brian talks about the African season where many roads are flooded and where road safety is partnered with water safety for young travellers all throughout the region. Read more about this phenomena here!

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I want to salute every one to my magical month and year! Friends, August is well and truly here and I am officially 27! I am not happy with many of you who didn’t deliver anything for my birth day: it seems you forgot my unavoidable insatiable appetite for les gateaux (French for The Cakes) :P I know, you sent me great birthday wishes through social media, so I can forgive you-a little bit! On the bright side of life, everybody’s is just feeling great, I can sense that. Without taking much of your most treasured time , I’d like to thank you for staying and continuing to encourage your colleagues to stay alive on the road. Now, I need you to calm down, will you? This isn’t gonna be a full lecture on water safety so don’t worry but it is a focus on an area of safety that has high importance…so, here we go…

wet season africa
The African Wet Season can be a very dangerous period for commuters.

For those who didn’t know, 98% of Africa has 2 seasons, to say the least: The dry-dry season and the Wet-Wet Season. Apparently, there isn’t a clear cut and pronounced difference in weather seasons like Winter, Summer, Spring and Autumn, but rather an uncoordinated, unpredictable dry and wet conditions possibly being influenced by a lot of reasons ranging from climate change to the mood of our Gods? haha. The point here then becomes that, especially in wet conditions, there is a good chance that there is going to be floods, which over the years have improved their action potential by covering roads, stalling transport of especially young people of school going age, young people doing commercial business in towns and the local communities.

With a lot of frowns on the design of many African roads where drainage wasn’t an important scoring indicator, there is a very good opportunity that water will take a nap or may be play table tennis on these roads. Inevitably, you will want to drive through these same roads to catch a soccer game, rush for one of those lectures which you never want miss (like mine :D ) or catch up with friends.

wet road
For people travelling to school and beyond, the travel can be treacherous.

If you are like myself, a certified aquaphobic freak (apart from showering of course) who fears water and successfully never learnt to swim, the following tips may be of interest to you:


  • If you are able to correctly judge (and you can only do this if you are not drunk) that water that has fallen only 0.4metres and garnered a speed of 3.2 km/h, the car you are in or driving is a strong risk of being swept off the road!
  • Did you also know that 0.6 meters height of water can float a car except if it is open and can let the water through?

Assuming you find yourself in this situation (and I am holding my rosary beads and praying it doesn’t happen), what you going to do? Switch off the car, sip a beer and play that Green Days Wake Me Up When September Ends? )…Nope…

  • The golden rule is to avoid water if you can't swim.
  • Do not try to stand in fast flowing water. Should a foot become trapped in the rocks the river will force you over usually in a face down position, try to always face up stream if you are forced to stand in fast flowing water.
  • Make yourself as light as possible, remove your heavy boots, the dark muddy water will make you float higher. Stay away from white foaming aerated water, it is soft and you will sink deeper into the water. Keep your lungs inflated.
  • Try to get into a back-float on your back with your feet in front of you and your head up facing down river. Make use of the water rushing past you to push you up. Keep your back at 45 degrees with the water. With your elbows out, and hands down 45 degree you take up a ‘Lazy boy’ position. This will give you the maximum lift and keep your head above water.

flooded road pics
Flooded roads pose serious water risk dangers for travellers in Africa.

  • The river usually flows fastest in the middle and by maintaining a slight angle to the flow the river will steer you to the side. By opening and closing your hands you can steer yourself to the inside bend of the river where you will be washed out on the sand. The closed hand will feel more water force. With this you have used the least amount of energy and are able to use the force of the water that is around you. This will calm you and you will stay in control.
  • Stay away from rocks and vegetation. Rocks normally injure you easily and the river may raise more and the vegetation may keep entrap you as the water flow through it. The flow will be slower on the inside of a bend in the river. Go for the white sand. There is also wood for fire. In the wild be careful for crocodiles, as these banks are also their resting area.  If you find that the water is slowing down and your head is getting lower into the water try to move your closed hands in and out, all on your back, lifting and pushing you to the shore. Credits to Arrive Alive Africa for the tips on water safety

As if road safety alone wasn’t enough to commit to, we must embrace all forms of safety to ensure we as young people can be safe on the roads. Sadly, many roads do become flooded at this time of the year and therefore water safety while traveling on the roads becomes a necessity! At this time of the year, water safety and road safety are engaged! #StaySafeInAugust

road and water
Just wed by Vicar Brian - Road Safety with Water Safety in the African Wet Season



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Flood safety awareness from Arrive Alive Africa