Driving in rain can be extremely hazardous. When it’s gray and drizzly out and you’re forced to drive, make sure you know the dangers involved with the different hazards that rain creates on roadways. In stormy conditions, it's more difficult to see the road, signs and other vehicles – and can be just as difficult for them to see you.
Before You Drive
- Allow for more travel time. Slow down – it takes longer to stop or adjust in wet weather.
- Check your car’s brakes, tire pressure and tread depth, wipers and defroster – they should all be in good condition to cope driving in the rain.
- Your headlights, tail lights, brake lights and turn signals should all work properly.
- If you’re buying a new car, get one with safety features, such as stability control, traction control or all-wheel drive.
- Ensure your wipers are in good condition. If they are brittle or damaged, replace them before you’re caught in a downpour.
- Every car should have a roadside emergency kit.
On the Road
- Scuff soles of shoes on carpeting before starting the engine to prevent slipping.
- Driving in the rain is slippery! Leave extra space between you and the car in front of you. Normally the “3 Second Rule” applies. Increase this in the rain.
- Be careful of oily deposits, especially in intersections. Rain is most dangerous when it falls after long, dry spells. Use extra caution immediately rain starts because it takes a while for the worst of the oily slick to wash off the road.
- If you find yourself in a skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. This is called “steering into the skid,” and will bring the back end of your car in line with the front. For cars without anti-lock brakes, avoid using your brakes. If your car has ABS, brake firmly as you “steer into the skid.”
- Brake more gently & earlier to avoid skidding and to give the driver behind you more notice that you’re stopping/slowing.
- Watch out for brake lights in front of you, the car ahead of you, and beyond.
- Avoid using brakes when possible – it’s better to reduce your acceleration.
- Be meticulous about using your turn signal.
- Engage in turns more carefully and at a slower speed than usual.
- Stay toward the middle lanes – water pools in outer lanes.
- Drive in the tracks of a car ahead of you.
- Don’t follow trucks or buses closely – the spray coming off of their tires dramatically reduces visibility.
- Turn on your headlights. Even in light rain, foggy or overcast conditions it will help you see the road and help other drivers see you. However, don’t use your high beams in the rain or fog – your view will be further obscured because the beam will reflect back at you on the water droplets in the air.
- If there are large pools of brackish water ahead, if at all possible, drive around it or use an alternate route. Water splashing into the engine can damage the electrical systems, and if water gets inside the engine… you’ll likely need a new engine.
- Avoid puddles – some hide potholes that will damage your wheel. If you can’t gauge the depth, avoid it if at all possible. You can easily become stuck, too, even in an SUV.
- Don’t ever cross running water. Often the force of water running over a road is very powerful because that spot is “funneling” a larger body of water through it. If the force of water is greater than the weight of your vehicle, you will be in serious danger.
- If you must cross puddles, afterward, tap your brake pedal to remove some of the water from your brakes.
- If you stall in deep water, have someone pull you out using a tow rope or a cable winch. It may be possible to drive a manual transmission car out using the starter motor. You can make the job easier by removing your spark plugs. Take great care not to let water enter the cylinders, as it will hydro-lock your engine, ruining it. This is a last resort for rescuing a flooded vehicle and is not recommended.
- Keep an eye out for pedestrians. Rain deadens the usual audio cues for measuring car distances.
- Never drive beyond the limits of visibility, especially at night. Glare from oncoming lights refracted through the rain on the windshield can cause temporary loss of visibility. Pedestrians, animals, and other vehicles can be even harder to spot.
- If the rain is coming down so hard that you can’t see the road or car in front of you, pull over to a safe spot and wait it out.
- If possible, stay off the road during heavy thunderstorms. Bright flashes of lightning can temporarily blind and disorient drivers, creating potentially deadly driving conditions.
- If there is a chance that the rain will freeze, double your precautions. Carry snow chains as well as a supply of salt, and/or kitty litter to use to gain traction if needed. A small shovel is also advised.
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