10 tips to remember for driving safely in wet weather
The rainy season is upon us. And with that comes not only bad weather, but also the potential for more road accidents.
Sudden downpours can catch the average motorist off guard. When rainfall starts, oil and grime rise off the nooks and crannies of the road. This makes the road slippery as tires may lose grip easily when braking or cornering.
As the water keeps coming down from the heavens, puddles eventually form on the road which can cause another dangerous scenario – hydroplaning. This happens when a layer of water comes between the car’s tires and the road thus reducing traction and preventing the vehicle from responding to inputs from the driver.
This is why driving in the rain requires an elevated level of driver awareness, more attuned senses and heightened car control. The reduced visibility and grip, as well as the less than ideal road surfaces and infrastructure, make for a perfect recipe for driving disaster.
But fear not, there are ways to be safe on the road when driving in the rain. One just needs to be responsible enough to practice these tips to continue on with a calm and relaxing drive even during inclement weather.
- Reduce your car’s speed
There are two reasons why you should slow down a bit when it is raining. First is the reduced visibility because of rain and water spray from vehicles ahead. Second is the slippery road surface which will reduce the effectiveness of your car’s steering and brakes. Either way, by reducing your vehicle’s speed, you can buy yourself some time to react to the changing driving conditions.
2. Turn on the headlights
Turning on your headlights when driving in the rain lets other motorists see you from a greater distance through the mist and spray. Knowing where other cars are relative to each other lets you react in time and with the right inputs to avoid incidents. Using the hazard lights while driving in the rain should be avoided. The emergency lights are only used when the vehicle is parked on the side of the road. Don’t confuse others even if your intention is just to be seen when slowing down.
3. Use those wipers
The mixture of water, dirt and road oil on your car’s windshield lessens your visibility of the road ahead. Using your wipers and intermittently spraying your windshield with the car’s washers will help you see further down the road. Suffice it to say, the wiper blades are still in good condition. It’s important to know when was the last time you topped off the windshield fluid in your car or replaced its wiper blades.
4. Create space
Slowing down and keeping a safe distance from the cars around you is a must when it rains. The space you create gives you more time to react to what other drivers are doing. It also lets you see more of the road ahead in case there is debris or potholes to avoid.
5. Avoid hard braking
With the reduced friction between your car’s tires and the road surface caused by rainwater, it is crucial for you not to brake suddenly to avoid locking up and losing control of the car. Together with the distance you afforded yourself with the car ahead, letting off the gas and then gently stepping on the brakes after is a good way to lower your speed while still maintaining a safe gap from what is in front of you.
6. Stay clear of standing water
Puddles or large pools of water on the road should not be driven over as if the road under it was perfectly fine. In fact, these puddles can hide potholes, ruts or even open manholes which may damage your car when driven over without caution. The best thing to do is to smoothly steer away from areas with standing water.
7. Turn away from flooded roads
While low standing water might be a cinch to drive through, floods that reach up to six inches should be avoided. They are enough to cause loss of traction and even make your car slide. Floods that are 12-inches high can actually make cars float. And then there are engine and suspension components that will get affected by water along the way and could cost quite a sum to repair.
If you have to drive over a low flood, do so slowly and remember to step on your brake pedal for a few seconds after exiting the flood to dry out the brakes.
8. Be calm with your inputs
Your car is connected to the road only by a thin line of rubber on its tires. With rainwater further reducing the grip of your tires, they will not react as instantaneously as they do on a dry road. By smoothening your steering, acceleration and braking inputs, you will give more time for the tires to transition from one action to another and avoid losing control.
9. Check your car’s tires
The onset of the rainy season is the best time to check the condition of your car’s tires. The depth of a tire’s tread determines its ability to channel out water and give your car the grip it needs to move about. Tires whose threads have thinned out need to be replaced to ensure you maintain control of your vehicle when driving in the rain.
10. Stop and let it pass
The safest way to drive through a rainstorm is to simply not. Oftentimes, it is better to wait out a strong downpour by safely parking your car in a gas station or at a lay-by. Just make sure you are not stopped in the middle of the road or an area with little visibility as this might cause an accident.
On a normal day, driving is already a challenging activity that requires your utmost focus and concentration. When it rains, your attention on the road ahead and your surroundings, become paramount. It only takes a small miscue to cause a road incident, more so in the wet. So, stay alert and be extra careful the next time a downpour dampens your drive.
Motoring and motorsports are two of Mikko’s greatest passions. Combining more than twenty years of professional automotive photography and videography experience with years of touring car racing competition, and a deep understanding of the car industry, from both the manufacturers’ and consumers’ points of view, have given him a unique and insightful perspective in the motoring beat.