Driving in the rain seems routine to many people. Some enjoy it, while others would prefer to avoid it at all costs. In fact, wet pavement is highly dangerous to motorists; over 950,000 motor vehicle accidents occur annually due to wet roads, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, causing thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries.
Heavy rain obstructs your windshield, makes road surfaces slick, and is associated with lower lighting conditions. It can also cause life-threatening floods. Just 6 inches of water can cause you to lose control, while a foot of water will float a small car. Any water on roads can affect steering and braking.
However, you can improve road safety in the rain with these driving tips:
Expect to take longer to reach your destination. Stay alert and even wait a while before getting on the road. You might think it’s safer to start, but at first, rain mixes with oils on the pavement. The road may become less slick over time as the oils wash away. But don’t let your guard down.
Changing lanes can be hazardous in wet weather. Slippery surfaces can be more problematic when you shift to one side or another. Passing vehicles presents a challenge as well, since other drivers’ behavior may be unpredictable and/or their vehicles may not respond favorably in the rain.
Heavy rainfall causes a film of water to form on the road. This water layer can cause your car to hydroplane, which means your tires lose traction and the vehicle slides over the roadway. Any vehicle traveling over 35 miles per hour can hydroplane, and all you need is 1/12 of an inch of water.
To avoid hydroplaning, drive slower, maintain your tires, and replace them if they’re worn out.
If you do hydroplane:
- Slowly step off the gas pedal
- Continue to steer straight
- If you lose control, slowly steer in the direction of spin
- Never turn against the direction of spin
- Don’t move the wheel too sharply
Use Your Headlights
Headlights are required by law in many states when it’s raining or your windshield wipers are on, even during the daytime. The law in all states requires headlights to be on in low visibility conditions. Headlights enable other drivers to see you whether there’s rain, snow, ice, or fog.
Keep Your Distance
Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Braking distances increase in slick conditions, so give others more time to react in case they need to. In general, stay 3 seconds behind other vehicles, and add 1 or 2 seconds in rainy conditions.
Don’t Use Cruise Control
Cruise control makes a car go faster during hydroplaning. Avoid using it when you’re driving in the rain. You might lose control of the vehicle on a rain- or snow-covered road.
Follow these driving tips and increase your chances of getting safely to your destination.
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