Summer showers are here, cooling the hot pavement and causing foggy clouds to hover our streets. While it’s a welcome change from the snow showers and ice that distressed the flow of traffic in the months past, rain comes with its own set of driving challenges. The most notable being 1) decreased visibility and 2) loss of traction. In fact, 74% of all weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement.
Whether you are an experienced driver or are just starting driver’s training, the following safe driving tips should be heeded when rain is coming down or the pavement is already wet.
1. Slow Down – A Lot!
Any time it’s sprinkling, downpouring, or the pavement is wet, it’s wise to take things slow and turn the cruise control off. Many people are shocked to learn that just a light drizzle—seemingly harmless—increases the risk of a fatal car crash by 27%.
A good rule to follow is that you should decrease your speed by at least a third while driving in wet conditions.
2. Double Your Following Distance
Leaving an appropriate following distance from the vehicle in front of you is something drivers are urged to do in ALL weather conditions. Most drivers know that the general recommended following distance is three-seconds. However, increasing that distance to cater to poor weather is much lesser-known. The recommended distance in rainy or wet conditions is six-seconds—that means leaving twice as much space as you would on a dry, sunny day.
3. Avoid Standing Water
Driving through standing water puts you at risk of hydroplaning—when a vehicle slides across the water or wet pavement uncontrollably.
Sometimes avoiding standing water simply means (safely) dodging the large puddle accumulating near the shoulder of the road, while other times it means finding a new route. If driving through standing water is unavoidable then slow down before your tire reaches the water and avoid hitting the gas or breaks as much as possible.
4. Turn Your Headlights On
Seeing as raining weather is usually accompanied by dark, cloudy skies it would be remiss to not mention this tip. Even if it is the middle of the day, turning your headlights on will increase your visibility, as well as that of other drivers. However, you’ll want to avoid turning on your high beams as they can reflect off wet surfaces making visibility worse.
5. Create Ventilation
To avoid foggy windows, it’s necessary to create ventilation. Windows generally fog up during the warmer months (especially when it’s raining) because the humidity level is higher outside than it is in the vehicle. To alleviate foggy windows, try cracking your windows and always wait to start driving until your windshield is completely clear.
Another helpful hint, although not totally necessary, is to apply a water-repellent glass treatment, like Rain-X, to your windshield. This not only helps reduce fog, but it also assists raindrops in sliding off the windshield more easily.
6. Ensure Your Vehicle is in Good Condition
Periodically check your windshield wipers to confirm that they are in working condition. If the wipers are not clearing water well enough for complete visibility, it’s time to replace them. Likewise, tires should also be checked regularly. Balding tires are extremely dangerous to drive with on wet pavement and should be replaced as soon as possible.
7. Wait It Out
If the rain has just started to come down and you can push your departure time back by a few minutes that is highly recommended, as the first 15 minutes of rain is the most dangerous time to drive. During the beginning of a rain, water mixes with oil dripped on the pavement from vehicles, making roads extra slick. After 15 minutes or so, the rain has had a chance to rinse these oils off the pavement.
If you’re already en route when the rain starts—or when the rain picks up to a torrential downpour—don’t hesitate to get off the road or highway and find a parking lot or gas station to wait out the heavy rains until you have good visibility again. Always use your hazard lights if you are parked on the side of a road. You are ultimately the one who must make the decision as to whether the conditions warrant stopping or not…
If you feel nervous or unsafe while driving, listen to your gut, and play it safe!
The Speed Patrol Radar Speed Sign alerts drivers to drive extra cautiously when the conditions aren’t safe in your neighborhood.