Safety Tips: Driving in the Rain

Posted on: November 23, 2016

Stay Calm and Stay Alert

To stay alert while driving is particularly important in situations when your vision is partially obstructed, so be cautious and stay calm while driving in the rain. Keep both hands on the wheel at all times. During heavy rain or storms, turn off all distractions such as cell phones or the radio and focus on the road.

Turn On Your Lights

Many states require you drive with your headlights on while it rains, even during the day. Driving with your headlights on will help you see the road and helps other drivers see your vehicle. Always use your turning signal before changing lanes or making turns. Proper communication with other drivers helps to maintain safety on the road, especially during a heavy rainfall.

Slow Down and Take Your Time

Roads are most dangerous shortly after it begins to rain as dirt and grime will mix with oils from the asphalt and create slicker driving conditions. Slowing down will prevent your car from hydroplaning and will help reduce the possibility of skidding. Car tires can lose traction with the road at speeds as low as 35 mph or in as little as a ½ inch of water. Avoid hard braking and sharp turns to ensure your tires maintain contact with the road.

Losing control of your vehicle can be terrifying. However, there are ways to recover if your car begins to hydroplane. First, keep calm and slowly lift your foot off the gas pedal. Don’t use your brakes when hydroplaning as sudden braking can cause your car to skid. Hold the steering wheel steady and keep the car pointed forward or in the direction of the road. Avoid sharp turns and oversteering as the momentum may cause your car to spin. Lastly, wait for your tires to gain traction on the road again. It will be apparent when your vehicle stops hydroplaning. Until then, focus on staying calm and keeping the steering wheel steady.

Increase Your Stopping Distance

Increase the distance between you and the vehicles in front of you. This will give you both space and time to react to sudden changes on the road. It is impossible to predict what other drivers will do, especially in poor weather conditions. As a precaution, leave about three to five car lengths of space between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Avoid Standing Water

Pay attention to the conditions of the road. Watch out for splashes from large puddles as they could obstruct your vision. Don’t drive through flooded areas or standing water. Pools of water can hide potholes or mud that can damage or immobilize your vehicle. Be sure to avoid water that appears to have a current. Even a few inches fast moving water can lift your car and carry it away. Carefully avoid large puddles or change lanes when possible.

When in Doubt, Pull Over

Use your best judgment. If you aren’t confident in your ability to continue driving in present road conditions, find a safe place to pull over. Make sure your car is visible to both oncoming and incoming traffic. Turn on your hazard lights and wait for weather conditions to improve. It’s always preferable to pull over if weather conditions prevent you from seeing other vehicles or the road.

Take Care of Your Tires

Regularly check your tires for proper tread depth and tire inflation. Tire pressure should be checked at least once a month. Refer to your vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines regarding optimal pressure for your tires. There should be a label with your manufacturer’s tire pressure recommendations on the driver’s door or in the car manual.

If your tires have less than 2/32-inch tread depth, you should purchase a new set of tires. You can measure tread depth manually with a depth gauge, by using  “the penny test,” or by taking your vehicle to a local repair shop where they can service and align your tires.

Safety Starts Before You Drive

Naturally, you can’t control the weather, but there are a number of things you can do to minimize potential complications while driving in the rain. Make sure your vehicle is serviced routinely so it functions optimally no matter the weather conditions. Check your vehicle before you drive to ensure everything is in working order.

A faulty windshield wiper or one that leaves streaks is more than just a distraction. These inconveniences can become hazards in heavy rain, so check and replace your windshield wipers often. Use rain repellant products on windshields and side mirrors to improve visibility. Test your car’s headlights, tail lights, hazard, brake, and signal lights, and confirm they are functioning correctly before you drive.

Ultimately, the best way to drive in wet weather is to be cautious. Slow down, remain on alert, give other cars more space, and keep your steering wheel steady.