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How to Drive Safely in the Rain

02
May

In 2009, 33,808 people were killed in automobile accidents in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that this is the lowest death rate since 1950, even with an increase in road travel. Are Americans becoming safer drivers? Regardless, it is never too late to brush up on safety practices that can save lives.

Safety is crucial when the elements take control and bad weather is apparent. Wet roads can create unsafe conditions. Learning how to drive safely in the rain is an important skill for any driver. Driving safely in the rain means being aware of your surroundings, knowing how to drive safely and anticipating the moves of other drivers, and making sure that your vehicle is in proper working order for wet weather conditions.

Being Aware of Road Conditions and Your Surroundings

Understanding what happens to the road when it starts to rain is a crucial element to staying safe while driving in wet weather. During periods of drought and limited rainfall, car oils and greases collect on the road, causing the road to become extremely slick when rain finally begins to fall. The first hour of rain water mixing with the oils is the most treacherous, until the rainwater finally washes the slickness away.

Water on the road increases the chances of hydroplaning. It is important to avoid pools of water, especially deep pools that could wreak havoc on your car engine or electrical system. Hydroplaning occurs when water on the road causes the vehicle’s tires to loose grip of the road, and literally, skim across the water. The vehicle then looses all control of steering and braking. Roads in the United States are designed so that water drains off the sides. Staying toward the middle of the road will allow you to avoid large puddles that could result in hydroplaning.

Safety Tips and Anticipating Other Drivers

Adhering to these safety tips while driving in the rain will ensure safety. It is also important to anticipate other drivers, as they may not be adhering to the same guidelines.

• Drive Slower. Anticipate that other drivers will be slowing down as well. The pace of traffic will slow down. If you know the weather forecast is predicting rain before your trip, allot more time for getting to your destination.

• Keep a safe distance. This will allow you to anticipate the moves of the car in front of you. You will need a further distance from buses and large trucks as they tend to spray water, causing reduced visibility.

• Turn on headlights and fog lights. This will increase you visibility and make you more visible to other drivers.

• Brake early if you need to brake. This allows other drivers to anticipate you.

• Use caution when approaching turns and curves, as they may be slick.

• Don’t slam on the brakes, should you begin to hydroplane. This can only exacerbate the situation. According to Edmunds.com if you should begin to hydroplane, “release the gas pedal slowly and steer straight until the car regains traction.”

• Do not use cruise control during rainy weather conditions.

• Be prepared to defrost. Rainy weather can mean foggy windows, and further decreased visibility.

• If the weather is too bad, stay home, or pull over and wait it out. Safety is always the number one priority.

Keep Your Car in Good Shape for Rainy Weather Driving

The condition of your vehicle can have an impact on your safety when driving in rainy weather. Tire pressure, wiper blades, tread depth, lights, defroster, and brakes can directly affect your vehicle’s ability to handle in wet conditions. According to weather.com, good tires can be a life saver. It is important to have the proper tire tread for rainy weather. Proper windshield wipers are also crucial to visibility. Cracked and frayed blades do not clean the windshield correctly. Weather.com recommends that windshield wiper blades be replaced twice a year, or every 6,000 miles. Keeping your car in proper working order can save lives when driving in rainy weather.

Sources

Liz Kim and Joanne Helperin. (2009). “Tips and Techniques for Driving in Rain.” Edmunds.com.

“Tips for Driving in the Rain.” Smartmotorist.com

Olivia Alair. (September 9, 2010). “U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Annouces Lowest Traffic Fatalities in Six Decades.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Gary McCoy. “Weatherize Your Passenger Car for Rain.” Weather.com

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