Look on Google for some tips about driving safely in the rain, and you’ll find the same ol’ advice lurking in every corner of the web — like slowing down and keeping a larger distance between you and the car in front of you. Those tips are a good start, but they’re certainly not ALL you need to do when Mother Nature makes the roads wet and slippery!
Here in Southern California, it’s common to get nearly three feet of rainfall every single year. And, according to the California Highway Patrol, the number of car accidents goes up a whopping 203% when it starts to rain! If you don’t want to become part of this statistic, there are 8 things you need to do to make your next rainy commute a safe one:
1. Turn on your headlights
Lots of drivers don’t know this, but California law requires you to turn on your headlights any time your windshield wipers are on — no matter what color the sky is! And, yes, this law still applies to you if your car has running lights. Your headlights won’t necessarily help you see better in the rain, but they will help other drivers see YOU.
2. Never turn on your flashers while you’re moving
You may think that your emergency flashers are a great way to help other drivers see your car in a rainstorm, but in reality, using your flashers while you’re driving is downright dangerous! In fact, it’s actually against California law to have your emergency flashers on while you’re driving.
Because those lights are designed to let other drivers know that your car is stopped for some kind of emergency. When other drivers see them, they assume you’re stopped, and they think they have to go around you. As you can probably imagine, having a bunch of cars swerving all over the road in the rain can easily lead to big problems!
3. Stay in the middle lanes
This may not always be an option, but if you can, do it! Typically, rain pools on the outer lanes first, so by staying in the middle, you’re less likely to hit too much water and lose control of your car.
4. Know what to do if you start hydroplaning
No matter how careful you are, it doesn’t take much to send your normally-safe car into a tailspin — literally! Hydroplaning is the fancy word used to describe what happens when your tires lose their grip on the road and start sliding on the water that has collected on the road. Because your tires are touching the water — instead of the actual pavement — your car can lose its ability to steer and stop.
Whatever you do, though, don’t panic! Don’t slam on the brakes, because this can make things worse. Instead, steer towards an open space — like the grass on the side of the road, for example. If your car has front-wheel drive and an antilock brake system (ABS), ease up on the accelerator, but don’t completely take your foot off of it while you steer. You’ll need a little bit of gas to get to the open space. However, if your car has rear-wheel drive and no ABS, you’ll need to take your foot off the gas altogether as you steer towards the open space.
Just remember, it doesn’t take a major water build-up to make your car hydroplane. In fact, the first ten minutes of rain are actually the most dangerous because the water is mixing with the oil residue on the road — causing an even more slippery situation.
|Click Here to Download the CHP Rain, Fog, and Snow Guide|
5. Go check your tires right now
While you can’t completely eliminate your chances of hydroplaning, the right tires can minimize your risk. The best tires have tread that hasn’t worn down too much and plenty of air. If your tires are worn or don’t have enough air pressure, your odds of hydroplaning in the next rain storm go way up. That’s why it’s so important to take a close look at them now, before you put yourself at unnecessary risk!
6. Turn down the air conditioner
When your windshield and windows get hit with ice cold air from the inside and air from the outside, it can make the glass fog up quickly. Your visibility already goes down when it starts to rain, and if you throw foggy windows into the mix, you can be virtually blind driving down the road!
Even if your car has a defroster, it’s still a good idea to warm up the air in your car a little bit. After all, even the best defrosters don’t work instantly, and every second that you struggle to see where you’re going is second you’re in danger!
7. Turn off your cruise control
It has “control” in the name, but cruise control can actually make you LOSE control of your car in the rain! So, as soon as you see the sky open up, turn off your cruise control.
8. Brake lightly when it’s safe to do so
If it’s really pouring, your brake pads can easily become saturated. The problem with that? If they get too wet, they won’t work! So, if you’ve just driven through a big puddle, lightly tap on your brakes. This provides two big benefits — it gives you a chance to test your brakes, and it helps dry out your brake pads.
Yes, you’ve got a lot of extra responsibilities when you’re driving in the rain. However, taking a few precautions is a whole lot better than getting into an accident!
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