Driving in the Rain: How to Stay Safe

Traffic in the Rain
WoodleyWonderWorks, Flickr

Whether you live in Boston, where wellie boots are your constant companion, or reside somewhere where rain is less expected, most of us will have to drive in the rain many times in our lives. 23% of vehicle crashes each year are weather-related. Of those crashes, 74% occur on wet pavement and 46% occur during rainfall.
When roads are wet and slick, not taking proper precautions could be costly or even deadly. Here are some tips for driving in the rain:

1) Go Slowly.

The first few hours during and after a rainstorm are the most dangerous. That’s because all of the grease and oil from cars creates a film on the road during dry conditions and then when it rains, this layer gets wet and extremely slippery. Slow down to accommodate the slick conditions…and to drive defensively against all those other drivers who also think they can drive at top speed because they know what they are doing.

2) Break Cautiously.

One of the primary reasons that cars collide with each other during rainstorms is the fact that drivers tend to slam on their brakes as if it were dry, but the wet road causes the car to slide forward, often into the back of another car. Brake earlier than you normally would, and do it gently to notify the person behind you that you are slowing down. If traffic’s coming to a sudden stop, or visibility is very poor, consider putting on your hazard lights.

3) No Swimming.

Sure, the big splash that happens when you drive through a huge puddle is fun and the kids might like it. However, if that water gets up into the engine compartment, it can damage the internal systems, resulting in the need for some major car repairs. Assuming you aren’t a stunt driver filming an SUV commercial, if you are stuck in running water during a flood, you are going to be stuck in the rain with no car. Avoid the temptation to take your vehicle for a swim; safely negotiate your way around large puddles, and avoid running water. Once you have passed through a large puddle safely, lightly tap your brake pedal to dry off your rotors.

4) Go With The Flow.

If you decided that you really are a stunt car driver and start to hydroplane in the slick conditions, take your foot off the gas. Put your foot on the brakes firmly and steadily and steer in the direction of the skid. Wait for the car to come to a complete stop before you attempt to readjust yourself in the right direction.

5) Increase Your Visibility.

When it’s raining, turn on your low-beam headlights, whether it is state law or not. This helps other cars see you, which helps everyone stay safe. Stay in the middle lane as much as possible to see what is going around and let others see you. This also helps you stay out of some of the deeper water, which tends to run off to the side.

6) Check the Depth of Your Tire Tread.

If you are driving on tires with less than 1/16” of trend remaining, then proceed with extra caution when driving in the rain. The performance of a tire is significantly reduced with the combination of wet roads and little tire tread remaining and can lead to hydroplaning, especially at high speeds and around turns. Get your tires replaced quickly.

7) Concentrate.

If ever there were a time to shun your mobile device, and even turn down the radio, a heavy rainstorm is it. Driving in heavy rains is no time to test the limits of your connected car – do that in your driveway. Deploy all your attention and energy to safely operating your vehicle, and driving defensively, to anticipate other drivers’ moves and mistakes.
There you have it, some important safety tips for driving in the rain. Remember that your top priority is to reach your destination safely and help keep your fellow drivers safe as well.
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