Driving in the rain can be a slippery situation – slick road conditions, poor visibility and possible hydroplaning or skidding are some of the potential risks. More than 1 million weather-related crashes occur each year – mostly on wet pavement and nearly half while it’s raining.
Smart drivers know techniques for driving in the rain, avoiding hydroplaning and using the vehicle’s safety features. Here are some tips for driving in wet conditions that you can save for a rainy day.
Use your safety features wisely
This one is important: Turn on your headlights while driving in the rain – day or night. Many states require it. You’ll see better, and other drivers can see you better too.
To clear fogged-up windows, turn on the defroster.
Examine the tread on your tires. Worn tread decreases traction and increases the likelihood of skidding. Test your tread by inserting a penny between the tread upside down: If Lincoln’s head is covered, tire tread depth is good. If Lincoln’s head is uncovered, it’s too low, and the tire should be replaced.
Do NOT use cruise control on wet pavement. Cruise control may interpret loss of traction as reducing speed and increase acceleration to compensate, which may cause the vehicle to veer dangerously.
Windshield wipers and water repellent products
It sounds obvious, but turn on the windshield wipers when it rains. You need a clear view. You can also use rain repellent products on windows to help proactively clear water from the glass.
Hydroplaning (or skidding) occurs when a vehicle loses traction after it hits a patch of water. Water builds up on front of the tires so fast that the car’s weight can’t push it out of the way – causing it to ride on top of the water and slide until traction is restored.
Tips to avoid hydroplaning
- Maintain a controlled speed, especially on curves
- Steer and brake lightly; sudden corrections can cause you to lose traction
- Keep tires properly inflated and be sure there’s good tread depth
- If you do start to hydroplane, stay calm, ease off the gas and don’t suddenly apply the brakes or jerk the steering wheel
Use these techniques for driving in the rain
- Keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times
- Eliminate distractions – cell phones, radio, people talking, etc…
- Keep six car lengths between you and the car ahead
- Maintain a safe speed. A rule of thumb: Reduce your speed by 10 m.p.h. for each level you increase your windshield wiper speed
- Avoid flooded roads. Deep water can stall your engine and even cause your vehicle to float
- Drive in the middle lanes, since water is usually deeper in the outside lanes
- Drive in the tracks of the vehicles ahead of you
- Be careful around large trucks and buses. Don’t follow too closely; spray from their large tires can hit your windshield and temporarily obscure your vision. Pass with caution, but get around these large vehicles quickly and safely
- Watch for brake lights ahead
- If the visibility is poor, pull off onto the shoulder until it clears
We’re a major proponent of defensive driving, particularly in rainy conditions, which is why we offer defensive driving discounts to reward educated and careful drivers.