Driving in the rain, whether a light sprinkle or a heavy downpour, is one of the most challenging conditions drivers face. Rain affects visibility, friction on the pavement, vehicle performance, and reaction times. Heavy downpours can make it difficult to see ahead of your vehicle, which can be especially dangerous. Rain also tends to slow traffic, which can lead to backups or stop-and-go traffic that increases the risk of rear-end collisions. Fortunately, if you understand how rain affects all these factors, you can take steps to protect yourself and others on the road.
Here are some simple tips to keep you and your loved ones safe this rainy season:
Prepare Your Vehicle Ready for Rainy Weather
It’s always recommended to get your vehicle ready for the rainy season before it begins to ensure everything is in proper working order. You should:
- Inspect and replace your windshield wiper blades. Good visibility is one of the most critical factors for driving safely; when your blades are worn, they can smear water across your windshield, rather than clear it. This can distort your vision and make it more difficult to see obstacles while driving. Check your windshield wiper blades for signs of wear and damage, and replace them if needed. If they look ok, you can also test them to see how well they work. If the blades are causing streaks or they aren’t clearing the water away in one swipe, it’s time to replace them.
- Check all lights and turn signals to make sure they’re working. Not only will your lights help your own visibility, but they’ll make your vehicle visible to other drivers. They’ll also warn other drivers if you’re slowing down or making a turn.
- Check your tire pressure and tread. A good amount of tread and proper tire pressure will give your tires better traction and help them grip the road. When your tread is low, your tires have more difficulty resisting hydroplaning, which is when your tires ride on the surface of standing water rather than the road. This can be very dangerous – and contrary to what many drivers believe, it can happen even when the roads are slightly damp. If your tires have low tread, they should be replaced.
- Check your brakes. If your brakes have been squealing, grinding, or vibrating when you push the pedal down, it’s a good idea to have them serviced before wet weather hits. Brake issues can make it more difficult to stop, even in dry conditions, but they can be even more hazardous in the rain.
Whether you’re caught in a rainstorm or just a drizzle, it helps to drive slowly. This is because it takes longer to slow down and come to a complete stop when the roads are wet. In addition, the faster you drive, the harder it is for your tire tread to displace the water from your tires. Driving slowly helps reduce the risk of hydroplaning, plus it gives you more time to react to any hazards or obstacles you might encounter. A good rule to follow is to reduce your driving speed by about 1/3 in wet conditions.
Turn on Your Lights
Even if it’s relatively bright outside, turning on your headlights will make your vehicle more visible to other drivers. Having your lights on during adverse weather is also required by California law, so make sure to flick them on when it’s raining, even if you have good visibility.
Know Your Route
Checking maps or adjusting your route while you’re driving can be distracting and increase the risk of getting into an accident. Knowing your route ahead of time is much safer—and less stressful!
Double Your Following Distance
The more distance you leave between your vehicle and the car in front of you, the more time you have to react. Driving distance is important in all weather conditions, but it can make a significant difference in wet weather when stopping distances are longer. The recommended distance while driving in the rain is six seconds, or double what you would normally allow for on a dry, sunny day.
Follow the Path of the Car Ahead of You
When driving behind another car, try to follow its path. The tracks its tires make on the road have already been cleared of some of the water, so you’ll have better traction and a reduced risk of hydroplaning.
Keep Your Windows Clear
Fogged-up windows can reduce visibility just as much as the heaviest downpour, so make sure you’re using your defroster or air conditioning to reduce any fog that builds up. If you find your defroster isn’t working as well as you like, you can also roll down your windows, which will help to balance out the temperature difference.
Keep an Eye on Brake Lights
A good rule of thumb for all driving conditions is to keep an eye on the brake lights in front of you, especially if you can see a few cars ahead. This can alert you to quick slowdowns and give you plenty of time to decelerate if you need to.
Be Cautious Around Pooled Water
If you can’t tell how deep pooled water in the road is, be sure to approach it with caution. Drive through it slowly so you can assess how deep it is. If the puddle is deep enough, it can damage your vehicle’s electrical components and may cause a breakdown.
Be Cautious While Braking
One common reason vehicles collide in rainy weather is drivers slamming on their brakes. Wet roads can cause cars to slide forward—often into the rear end of another car, so make sure you’re braking gently and early. This will prevent you from skidding ahead, and it will alert the driver behind you that traffic is slowing down.
Wait It Out
The first 15 minutes of rain is typically the most dangerous time to drive. This is because the water mixes with oil on the road, making conditions extra slick. After about 15 minutes, the oil starts to get rinsed away. If you’re already en route when it starts to rain and you have the time, you may want to consider stopping for 15 minutes or so before you start driving again. If you haven’t left yet (and it works with your schedule) consider waiting for about 15 minutes or so before heading out.
Go Slow, Be Alert, Stay Safe
No one wants to be involved in an accident. However, staying safe in rainy conditions is easier when you keep your speed low, stay alert to road and traffic conditions, and make an effort to drive safely. Keep plenty of room between you and the car in front of you, and make sure you’re doing what you can to keep your visibility as high as possible.
We hope you never get into an accident, but if you do, we can help! From high-quality OEM repairs to complete insurance coordination, we make your repairs as convenient and stress-free as possible. Contact Cline Collision Center today at (707) 591-9909 or request an appointment online. Stay safe out there!