Driving in the rain can be troublesome, if not downright safe. Rains make the roads slippery, making it hard for motorists to brake in time. It can also decrease visibility and affect the ability of drivers to see other cars.
Rain also increases the likelihood of deadly car crashes. According to a recent study published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, rain can increase the risk of a fatal crash by up to 34 percent.
Below are some ways to drive safely in the rain and avoid getting into a fatal car crash:
- Before driving, double check your vehicle’s equipment
Before you head out, make sure that your car’s equipment is all in working condition. Your goal is to see even when there’s a heavy downpour and be seen by other motorists as well. To do so, check that your headlights and taillights are working properly.
Windshield wipers must also be in good working condition. Without them, driving in the rain can be akin to swimming without goggles. Clean them by applying rubbing alcohol on the blade. If there are missing chunks, then you might want to replace them with new ones that can clear the glass in a single swipe.
The tires for rain driving should be in tip-top condition, too. Check the tread of your tires as balding tires can be risky on wet roads. Worn out tires don’t have grooves deep enough to channel out the water beneath the thread. This results in hydroplaning, wherein the vehicle slides uncontrollably on wet roadways.
Here’s a bonus tip—if your vehicle hydroplanes, don’t slam on your brakes. Calmly remove your foot on the accelerator and turn the steering wheel in the direction where you want the car to go.
- Driving safely in the highways
When driving in the expressway, leave enough space between you and the car you are trailing since it would take longer for your vehicle to stop when it is raining. Your car’s tires will have less grip on a wet surface, so it makes sense to give more space between you and the vehicle you are following. Reduce your speed and give yourself at least 5 seconds behind the next car. This should give you more time to react.
You must also avoid following busses or large trucks because the spray made by their huge tires can reduce your vision. If possible, try to overtake them. If not, reduce speed and increase the distance between your car and the truck that you are following.
Turn your headlights on during torrential rain, even when it is daytime. This should help other drivers see you on the road. However, you should not use high beam lights because it can be glaring and thus, distract oncoming drivers.
You should also deactivate the cruise control when driving in the rain. While this is a great feature particularly on long road trips, it can be dangerous when driving on wet surfaces. It can worsen hydroplaning as it can keep your car moving at a constant speed. Thus, it is advisable to disable the cruise control and lower your speed when driving in the rain.
- Staying alert on the road.
Prepare for gusty winds which often come with heavy rains. Strong winds can push your car around and cause you to lose control of it. Be alert and keep a firm grip on the wheel. Also, be aware that high profile vehicles may be more susceptible to losing control due to gusty winds. Keeping a safe distance should help you avoid getting in harm’s way.
Speaking of staying alert on the road, watch out for reckless behavior on the roads. You may be a safe driver but not all motorists are as cautious as you. Pedestrians, too, maybe in a rush to get home and thus cross the streets without looking at incoming vehicles. Be more cautious when driving in urban areas since you might not be able to see crossing pedestrians due to poor visibility.
- Improving your car’s visibility.
Humidity levels tend to increase during heavy rains. You will likely find your car windows foggy when you are driving in the rain. There are several ways to prevent this from happening. One is to keep a demister pad in your car. You may also turn on the air-conditioning in your car to remove the moisture from the air. Alternatively, turn on the heater to warm the windows and keep it above the dew point. You may also turn off the recirculate setting in the heater to let the moisture out of the car.
- Driving on flooded areas.
When you encounter flooded areas, drive slowly and cautiously. Avoid driving through standing water if possible. Stop the car first and check the water level ahead before entering the flooded area. If there are other vehicles, let them pass first so you can see whether it is advisable to drive through the flood.
Don’t drive through a flooded area if the water is deeper than the bottom third of your car wheels. You’d rather seek a detour than driving through the flooded area and risking damage to your car.
In case you find the water shallow, drive slowly and steadily to prevent making a bow wave. Once you have passed by the area, test the brakes as soon as you can because water can minimize their effectiveness. Apply light pressure on the brake pedal to help dry out the brakes.
Make sure that the brakes are pulling evenly on both wheels before you build up speed again.
Finally, when it is raining bad to the point that you can’t see the vehicles in front of you, it would be better to pull over and wait for the rains to stop. Giving up a few minutes or even an hour of your trip may be worth doing than getting into a fatal accident on the road.