As part of your role as a safe driver, you need to know how to adjust your driving for bad weather and road conditions when rain, snow, or ice move in. Your ability to see can be severely hindered in these situations. If you can’t delay your departure until road conditions improve, there are a few precautions you can take to ensure your safety behind the wheel.
Here’s how rain makes roads more dangerous: Rain actually causes your tires to lose traction—when the road gets wet, the water mixes with the dirt on the asphalt, making it harder for your tires to “hang on” to the road. Simply put, rain makes everything slippery, and puddles that form can lead to hydroplaning. Apart from what the precipitation does to the road and your car, the rain makes it difficult to see. We’ve all been there: you’re driving along and suddenly; the downpour becomes so thick that it’s hard to see where you’re going.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Driving in the Rain
1. Avoid Standing Water
Staying away from standing water (like large puddles) is the best-case scenario, but if you approach it on the roadway and must drive through it, be sure you slow down. If you don’t, you risk hydroplaning and losing control of your car. If you’re approaching a flooded road, do not attempt to drive through it. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles.
2. Plan for More Time on the Road
Always give yourself plenty of time (this means allowing extra time) to get to your destination. Never rush when it’s raining heavily: accidents are even more likely when weather conditions are poor.
3. Do Not Use Cruise Control
If your car hydroplanes while you have your cruise control set, your car can actually accelerate—which is something you don’t want to happen when you’re hydroplaning. Also, taking your foot away from the pedals can be hazardous when you are driving in torrential rain.
4. Be More Cautious with Braking
When you’re driving in a downpour, you simply cannot brake late the way you can in ideal weather conditions. The roads are slippery, which means you could slide more if you brake too quickly. There’s also a chance that you could get water in your brakes, which will cause them to lose their stopping power. So be sure to keep plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you to avoid any of these situations. You may recall from drivers ed that the following distance in ideal conditions is 3 seconds—increase that distance to 4 seconds or more in the rain, depending on the situation.
5. Use Your Headlights
Even if it’s only lightly sprinkling, turning your headlights on will help you see the road better. Plus, it will also help other drivers see you. However, do not use your high-beam headlights: the light from the beams will reflect off the water in the air, making it harder for you to see.
6. Be Extra Careful After Long Dry Spells
Take note, Californians: If it’s raining hard after a long period of dryness you need to be even more cautious on the road. Engine oil and other substances build up on roadways over time, and when rainwater gets added to the mix, a very slippery combination occurs. The first few hours of that initial rain are the most treacherous.
When driving in rain, your top priority is to see and be seen. If you drive in rain or snow, make sure to stop occasionally to wipe mud or snow off your windshield, headlights, and taillights. In any case, even in good weather, drive with your headlights on so that you’re seen by other drivers.