Driving in the rain can be challenging and potentially dangerous for even the most experienced drivers. Wet roads can reduce traction, affect visibility, and increase the risk of hydroplaning, making it essential to exercise caution and adapt your driving style to these conditions.
This blog will discuss some essential tips and strategies for driving safely in the rain. Whether you are a new driver or have been behind the wheel for years, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and skills to navigate wet roads safely and confidently. So, let’s get started and learn how to stay safe while driving in the rain!
Why Is Driving in the Rain so Dangerous?
Driving in the rain can be dangerous for several reasons. Here are some of the main factors that contribute to the increased risk:
- Reduced visibility: Rain, particularly heavy rain, can significantly reduce visibility on the road. This makes it harder for drivers to see other vehicles, pedestrians, and potential hazards. Additionally, wet roads may cause glare from headlights and streetlights, further impairing visibility.
- Reduced traction: Rainwater can mix with oils, dirt, and other substances on the road, creating a slippery surface. This reduces the tires’ grip on the road and can lead to skidding or hydroplaning, where the vehicle loses contact with the road surface and slides uncontrollably.
- Longer braking distances: Wet roads increase the distance required to come to a complete stop. This means that if a driver needs to brake suddenly, they may be unable to stop in time to avoid a collision.
- Increased risk of aquaplaning: Hydroplaning occurs when a layer of water builds up between the tires and the road surface, causing the vehicle to lose traction and potentially skid out of control. Aquaplaning is more likely to occur at higher speeds and in heavy rain.
- Malfunctioning vehicle components: Rain and moisture can cause electrical components in a vehicle to malfunction, leading to reduced performance or even complete failure of critical systems like brakes, headlights, or windshield wipers.
- Decreased predictability: Drivers may behave unpredictably in wet conditions due to reduced visibility, increased braking distances, and the stress of driving in the rain. This can lead to erratic driving behavior and an increased risk of accidents.
- Flooding: Heavy rain can cause localized flooding, which can obscure the road and make it difficult to judge the depth of standing water. Driving through flooded areas can be dangerous, as vehicles can become stranded, stalled, or swept away by strong currents. Moreover, driving through water can cause significant damage to a vehicle’s engine and electrical systems.
- Wind: Rainstorms can be accompanied by strong winds affecting a vehicle’s stability, particularly at high speeds or on bridges and elevated roadways. Crosswinds can make it difficult for drivers to maintain control of their vehicles, increasing the risk of accidents.
Importance Of Safe Driving In The Rain
Safe driving in the rain is crucial to ensuring the safety of all road users, including drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Rainy conditions often lead to reduced visibility and slippery roads, increasing the likelihood of road accidents. Understanding the statistics, importance, and precautions associated with driving in the rain can help raise awareness and contribute to safer roads.
According to the US Department of Transportation, nearly 21% of vehicle crashes each year are weather-related, with the majority (around 70%) occurring on wet pavement and 46% during rainfall. These numbers demonstrate that rain significantly increases the risk of accidents, highlighting the need for drivers to be extra cautious in such conditions. Furthermore, wet-weather accidents are responsible for thousands of injuries and fatalities each year, emphasizing the severity of this issue.
How To Drive Safely In The Rain
Driving safely in the rain is essential to prevent accidents and ensure a smooth journey. Here are some tips to help you drive safely in wet conditions:
Keeping Your Car Clean and Maintained
1. Keep your windows clean and clear
Being able to see properly is key to driving safely anytime, especially when visibility is already reduced because of rain. To improve your visibility:
- Clean the inside and outside of the windows regularly to remove dirt, dust, mud, smoke, fingerprints, grime, and other materials.
- If your windows fog up, turn on the car’s air conditioning or cold air and aim the vents at the windows. Turn on the rear defroster, and open the windows if necessary to increase the airflow.
2. Maintain your lights
Take your car to a mechanic to adjust your headlights properly if you’ve never done this. This will ensure your headlights are pointing in the right direction, make it easier to see, and prevent you from blinding other drivers.
- Check regularly to ensure none of your lights have burnt out, and replace dead lights immediately. This includes headlights, brake lights, turn signals, tail lights, and running lights.
- Keep the light covers on your car clean so that dust and dirt don’t reduce their efficacy.
3. Maintain your tires
Tire tread allows your tires to adhere to the road, which is why driving with bald tires is so dangerous. Without the right traction, you can easily skid, slide, and hydroplane in wet conditions.
- New tires generally have about 10/32 of an inch of tread. Tires should be replaced when the tread gets to 4/32 of an inch. Tires with 2/32 of an inch or less of tread are unsafe and shouldn’t be used.
Driving Appropriately for the Conditions
1. Turn on your windshield wipers
Along with keeping your windshield clean, you can also improve your visibility in wet conditions by ensuring that your wipers are up to the job and by using the right washer fluid.
- Replace your wipers yearly to prevent them from cracking, breaking, or not sealing properly when needed.
- Try a hydrophobic washer fluid that will cause water to bead up and drip off your windshield rather than sticking to it and blocking your view.
2. Slow down
During inclement weather or unfavorable driving conditions, your first reaction should always be to adjust your speed accordingly. Wet roads reduce your traction, slowing down reduces the chances of you skidding out and will give you more time to react to emergencies.
- Wet roads can reduce your traction by about a third, so you should also reduce your speed by a third.
- Even small amounts of water can make the road more slippery because the water mixes with oils on the road, creating a greasy layer.
- Driving too quickly on wet roads can lead to hydroplaning, which means your tires lose contact with the road. When a car hydroplanes, you have little control over steering or braking.
3. Stay focused
When you’re behind the wheel, it’s important to always pay attention to the road, other cars, and pedestrians. This is especially true in the rain when you cannot see as well, and your ability to stop may be hindered by the slickness of the road. Stay focused by:
- Keeping your eyes on the road at all times
- Paying attention to what drivers and pedestrians are doing around you.
- Turning off the radio and ignoring your cell phone and other electronic devices.
- Ceasing any conversations, you were having with passengers.
- Not eating, reading, or putting on makeup while driving.
4. Turn your lights on
When it starts to rain, turn on your headlights immediately, regardless of whether it’s day or night. In some states, driving without headlights is illegal when it’s raining. There are two reasons why you should drive with your lights on in the rain:
- First of all, your headlights will make it easier for other drivers to see your car.
- Second, rain typically means cloudy skies; turning your lights on will help you see the road better.
5. Drive with both hands on the wheel
You should always drive with your hands at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock on steering wheel because this gives you maximum control if you have to turn, swerve, or react quickly. Having both hands on the wheel is especially important when driving conditions are subpar.
- While traditional wisdom says to drive with your hands at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock on the steering wheel, this increases the chances of injury from airbags in case of a collision.
6. Stay five seconds behind the car in front of you
You should always leave a three- to four-second gap between your car and the car in front of you, and you should increase this to at least five seconds when it’s raining. Not only does this give you more time to stop or adjust if necessary, but it also prevents reduced visibility caused by the spray from other cars.
- To determine how many seconds you are behind another car, note when that car passes a landmark (like a street sign) and then count how many seconds it takes before your car passes that same landmark.
- Leaving space includes leaving an opening where you can escape quickly if necessary. To do this, always leave at least one open space beside or in front of you to move into.
7. Avoid slamming on the brakes
Slamming on the brakes can cause you to slide forward, and you won’t be able to control the car. Hitting the brakes too hard can also force water into your brakes, making them less effective.
- Instead of braking, you can also slow down by easing off the accelerator and downshifting if you have a manual transmission.
- Not being able to stop as quickly in the rain is another important reason for leaving extra space between your car and the one in front of you.
8. Take turns slowly
Turning too quickly on a wet road can cause your tires to hydroplane, which means you won’t be able to control the car and could skid out. Whenever you have a turn coming up, signal early and start slowing down sooner than you would in good conditions.
- Just like with driving, you should reduce the speed of your turns by about a third when it’s raining.
9. Don’t use cruise control
Cruise control is another factor that can lead to hydroplaning. The car’s weight shifts slightly when you ease on or off the accelerator, which helps the tires maintain traction with the road. But with cruise control, because the car’s speed is constant, there is no weight shift, and the car can lose traction.
10. Pull over if necessary
Never be afraid to pull over to the side of the road if you don’t feel comfortable driving. If you can’t see the sides of the road, the cars in front of you, or your surroundings at a safe distance, pull over.
- Other things that can reduce your visibility include the glare from other car lights and lightning.
- You may also need to pull over if there’s too much water on the road, the road is too slick, or you simply don’t feel safe.
- To pull over safely, turn on your signal, check your mirror and blind spots, pull over as far as possible to the side of the road, and turn on your four-way lights.
Reacting to Emergencies
1. Turn around if you encounter deep or moving water
Driving through deep or moving water can be hazardous for several reasons, including getting stuck, stalling out, damaging the car or the electrical components, or being swept away.
- Moving water is too deep if you cannot see the ground.
- Don’t proceed through deep water if it comes higher than the bottom of your door.
- If you encounter these types of road flooding, turn around and find another route. Pull over and wait out the flooding if the only route is blocked.
2. Be prepared to react if you hydroplane
Hydroplaning can occur at speeds as low as 35 miles (56 km) per hour, and when it happens,, your car may not react when you turn the steering wheel, and your backend may feel loose. If your car does hydroplane:
- Stay calm
- Avoid turning the steering wheel
- Ease your foot off the accelerator
- Apply slow and gentle pressure to the brakes
3. Know what to do if you start to skid
Skidding on a wet road can be frightening, but like any emergency, the key is remaining calm. Then, look where you want to go, ease your foot off the accelerator, and gently steer in the direction you want to travel. Avoid braking, and never slam on the brakes.
- To prevent skidding, brake before entering a turn or curve, then let your foot off the brake before the turn.
Driving in the rain requires extra attention and precautions. Maintaining a safe driving speed, increasing the distance, and using the right tires for rainy conditions are essential. Regular vehicle maintenance, such as replacing worn-out wipers and checking your brakes, can also help ensure your safety while driving in the rain. Remember to stay focused, avoid sudden movements, and keep a lookout for other drivers who may be struggling with the weather. Following these tips allows you to drive safely and confidently in rainy weather conditions. Stay safe out there!