How many times have you found yourself unexpectedly driving in the rain? It’s remarkable how quickly a bright, sunny day can turn into a rainstorm. Are you prepared for driving through those sudden changes?
Knowing how to adapt to wet weather can be the difference between arriving home safely or a trip to the hospital. Avoid a preventable accident by learning how to safely navigate rain-soaked roads when driving in the rain.
How Rain Creates Unique Driving Conditions
Safe driving in rainy weather requires you to recognize potential dangers and know how to deal with them. Clear, dry roads with excellent traction can become a slick nightmare, especially during light rain or the first few minutes of a rainstorm. Here are some facts to keep in mind for next time you are driving in the rain:
- Newly falling rain tends to make roadways extra slick, especially if the weather has been dry.
- During those first few minutes, water is mixing with the oil residue to create an ice-slick surface that offers little traction for your wheels.
- Give the rain a chance to wash away that oil before you start driving.
- Thunderstorms can cause problems that might at first seem unrelated to road traffic but which can nevertheless affect it.
- Heavy winds can uproot trees, break off limbs, and down power lines. Large tree limbs and flailing live electrical lines can create some serious hazards!
- Flooding is another problem that can occur remarkably quickly during torrential rains.
- As little as three inches of water is enough to cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
- If the water is deep enough to obscure the markings on the road, it’s too deep for safe driving!
Then, of course, there’s visibility — or rather the lack thereof! When it is really bucketing down, it’s hard to see the end of your hood let alone the lane markers in the street. The poorer the visibility, the slower you need to drive in wet weather. Better yet, pull over until you can see where you’re going again. When fog is predicted, try to avoid driving at all. If you must drive, allow plenty of extra time to reach your destination.
Under certain conditions, rain can create road conditions that are as slick as ice! Add in heavy winds, fog, and the potential for hydroplaning, and you’re probably better off staying where you are until the storm lets up.
What is Hydroplaning and How Can You Avoid It?
Hydroplaning is the driving-in-the-rain equivalent of skidding on snow. In both cases, your tires lose contact with the road surface and you lose control of your vehicle. This is what you need to know:
- The problem occurs because of a thin film of water between your tires and the road.
- Normally, the tread on your tires pushes the liquid away so your car can maintain contact with the road.
- When there’s too much water, however, the pressure in front of your tires builds up.
- That pressure then forces a thin layer of liquid between your wheels and the road.
- Suddenly you’ve lost traction and are skidding instead!
This is a scary and dangerous situation for both you and the other drivers around you. So, what can you do to prevent it?
- Slow down so the tread on your tires has time to push the water away. Most hydroplaning occurs at speeds of 35 mph or higher.
- As noted, light rain or the first few minutes of a rainstorm are the most dangerous for driving because of the treacherous water and oil mixture that results. This is often when hydroplaning occurs, too, so do your best to wait to hit the road until that window has passed.
- Sharp turns and slippery roads are a perfect combination for skidding. Turns should be as slow and wide as possible.
- Don’t try to steer in the direction of the skid! Since your tires aren’t in contact with the road anyway, effective steering really isn’t possible. Motorists who steer with the skid may find themselves in even more trouble if their tires suddenly regain contact with the road.
- Do not use cruise control on wet roads or disengage yours if it’s on when the storm starts. If you start sliding while using cruise control, the automatic setting will actually cause you to go even faster!
If your vehicle hydroplanes, take your foot off the gas and brake slowly until you can feel your wheels regain contact with the road. Keep your eyes and the steering wheel pointed in the direction you want to go.
12 Must-Know Driving Tips for Wet Roads
Rain and fog can dramatically increase your chance of being in an accident, but it’s not the driving in the rain or thick fog that causes so many issues. Instead, weather-related problems are mostly caused by drivers who aren’t prepared for changing road conditions.
Follow these 12 tips for safe driving in rain and you’ll be ready for whatever weather conditions come up!
1. Use Rain-X on the exterior of your windows. This hydrophobic product works by actually repelling raindrops. Fewer raindrops mean better visibility and improved reaction time.
2. Turn on your defoggers to clear the car windows of condensation build-up.
3. Make sure your wipers are in good condition and turn them up all the way if it’s raining heavily.
4. If your windshield wipers are on, your headlights should be on too! You likely have running lights, but the headlights will be easier for other motorists to see.
5. Don’t use cruise control in your car.
6. Try to avoid driving during the slickest first few minutes of a rainstorm.
7. Slow down and go under the speed limit if necessary, since tires lose traction when roads are wet. Less contact means more stopping distance is needed, so allow more following distance between vehicles.
8. If the rain gets really bad, just pull over for a while. Heavy rain rarely lasts long and you’ll be much safer waiting it out than trying to drive with poor visibility and even worse traction.
9. Focus! That means avoiding distractions like eating, drinking, listening to the radio, chatting with passengers, or using your phone (even in hands-free mode). This will help you better respond to brake lights and give you a better chance of driving safely in hazardous weather conditions.
10. Steer around puddles and standing water since you never know for sure how deep the water is or what’s beneath it.
11. Avoid steep hills if at all possible. The valleys between may be flooded.
12. Never cross rain-swollen streams. Even shallow water can cause you to lose traction.
Remember, rain can produce conditions that are as slick as ice. Drive like you really are on ice and you can prevent some of the dangers of driving in rain.
Are You Stuck in the Rain?
Contact Geyers Towing and let us get you unstuck! Our licensed and certified professional drivers can offer the roadside assistance, winching service, or towing aid you may need to get you safely to your destination. If you have questions or just need more safety tips for driving in the rain, we’re always happy to help!