Driving in the rain may seem low on the list of road hazards. That’s probably why, as reported by the Federal Highway Administration, rain annually results in as many as 573,000 car crashes, more than 228,000 persons injured, and over 2,700 fatalities. It seems people don’t place enough concern on the dangerous ways rain and wet pavement affect driving.
Rain significantly reduces visibility, pavement friction, and as rainfall pools in low spots it can obstruct lanes, creating bottlenecks and other dangers. Rain also reduces traffic flow and roadway capacity, increasing travel time, and creating irritable and sometimes reckless drivers.
The following is a list of helpful tips for driving in the rain that can keep you safe, or at least safer, the next time you encounter rainy streets.
1. INSPECT YOUR WINDSHIELD WIPERS
Your windshield wipers may work adequately in light rain, but how well do they perform in a heavy downpour? The last way you want to find out is to hit a wall of rain your wipers aren’t prepared for, forcing you to drive almost blind. To test them, spray your windshield (if it isn’t already rain soaked) and turn your wipers up as fast as they go. If there are any gaps they don’t properly clear, consider those blind spots, and be sure to replace your blades.
2. TURN ON YOUR HEADLIGHTS
It’s the law that you must turn on your headlights in low visibility conditions such as fog or rain. Even if it’s sunny out, it’s not so much about improving your visibility as it is about making sure you’re visible to others. In the event of heavy rainfall, other motorists may see your headlights when the rest of your vehicle is otherwise not visible.
3. DO NOT DRIVE DISTRACTED
Try your best to do away with the habits of your typical driving routine. Put away your phone. Turn down your music, or turn it off. Consider whether the route you typically go to work, for instance, is the safest in the present conditions. Give the road and the other drivers your complete attention.
4. DO NOT USE CRUISE CONTROL
This goes along with driving without being distracted. Keep your foot light on the gas and ready to brake, as you can’t predict when someone else may swerve to avoid standing water or perhaps hydroplane.
5. SLOW DOWN
Many people feel if they have an all-wheel-drive vehicle and the appropriate tires that they can drive as fast across wet pavement as they might on dry roads. Before you set out in wet or rainy conditions, add about 13% to the duration of the trip. That’s about how long you can expect to be slowed down, and should slow down in order to be safe.
6. GIVE YOURSELF MORE SPACE
As much room you would typically leave between your car and another vehicle, add at least another car length. You want a cushion of time and distance in which to react should you need to brake suddenly or otherwise avoid any hazard.
7. TRY NOT TO HYDROPLANE
Beware that driving in the rain excessively fast can cause your tires to travel not on the road but instead upon the layer of water on top of the pavement. This is known as hydroplaning (learn how to avoid it), and it has the similar effect as skidding across ice. Being a little late to your destination is a lot better than losing control of your car.
8. AVOID STANDING WATER
Have you ever driven through a pocket of standing water and had it suddenly turn the steering wheel in your hands? Sometimes that’s all it takes to cause an accident, or lose contact with the road.
9. NEVER DRIVE THROUGH A FLOODED AREA
Even if you see other vehicles your size driving through floodwater, it’s better to wait for the water to recede or find an alternate route. A foot and a half of water is all it takes to flood the engine of a low-profile car. Three feet can stall a truck or SUV. Driving through water may also cause your brakes to fail to engage properly. Even unforeseen long-term damage such as rust to your undercarriage can occur. So stay dry out there.
10. KEEP YOUR TIRES PROPERLY INFLATED
Incorrect tire pressure can affect your tires traction ability which can allow hydroplaning even on the smallest amount of water. Don’t forget to check out tireamerica’s other driving tips and tire maintenance, right here.