KEY TAKEAWAYS: Rain makes for dangerous driving conditions — here are a few tips to ensure your fleet is safe on slippery roads.
The wetter roads are, the more dangerous they become. A 2017 study published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society found that rain, snow, and ice increased the risk of a deadly car crash by 34 percent. Even just a light drizzle increased the chances of a fatal crash by 27 percent. This is a critical statistic because even though most people will slow down in heavy rain, they tend not to see the danger with light rain.
Rain dramatically reduces your visibility. It often causes roadways to become slippery and difficult to navigate as grease and oil from cars adds a slick film to roads, consequently decreasing your traction. Rain can make it far more challenging to control your vehicle, ensure visibility, and anticipate obstacles or other cars.
To help keep you and any potential passengers you may have safe, here are eight tips for safe driving in the rain.
1. Improve your visibility
Rain can dramatically reduce visibility, so use your windshield wipers to ensure you get a clear, unobstructed view of the road. However, even with wipers, humidity can cause your windows to fog. If this happens, use your ventilation system to defog your windows or try opening a window. Air conditioning can dry out incoming air and help defog windows. Pull over if you are unable to see.
Turn on your headlights. In most states, you must turn your headlights on if your wipers are on. Although no Canadian province currently has this law, for the purposes of safety, opt to turn them on anyway. It will help increase your ability to see and your visibility to other drivers.
Ensure your headlights are clean and replace worn or defective windshield wipers before you take your car out in the rain.
2. Reduce your speed
The signs that tell you to adjust your speed to weather conditions are right. The best way to avoid an accident on a rainy day is simply to decrease your speed. Your vehicle may not react as quickly as it does on dry pavement, and you can easily skid in rainy conditions. Slowing down is particularly important on bridges and curves, which can be particularly hazardous in certain weather conditions like rain.
3. Avoid hydroplaning
Hydroplaning is the term for when your tires lose contact with the road, and you lose all traction and, even more frighteningly, lose the ability to control your vehicle. It happens when the tiny grooves in your tires are unable to disperse water quickly enough. You can recognize hydroplaning because your steering wheel will suddenly stop responding. It will feel lighter, as though something else is controlling your vehicle — which is true. For those few seconds, the water is in control.
If your vehicle begins to hydroplane, your stability controls may be able to help by applying a brake to one side or another or by cutting power, but they may not work quickly enough. First of all, it’s important not to panic. Ease off on the gas immediately and attempt to steer gently in the right direction. Do not tug on the wheel or make sudden abrupt movements like slamming down on the brakes, as this could send your vehicle into a spin. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), you can gently apply your brakes. Your wheels will regain traction in a matter of seconds, and once that happens, you’ll be in control again.
4. Check your tires
Tires with worn-out treads or underinflated tires can both cause you problems in the rain. Worn-out treads often create a control problem in the best of conditions, but in the rain, they can also lead to hydroplaning. Underinflated tires are also more prone to hydroplaning and cause additional steering issues. Tire maintenance is an integral part of owning a vehicle — you want to spot any issues before they pose a problem.
5. Turn off your cruise control
Cruise control takes a second or two to disengage and allow you to take control when you need to. If you suddenly lose control or begin hydroplaning, those few seconds can be crucial, so simply turn off your cruise control in rainy conditions to ensure you have as much control as possible, should anything occur.
6. Keep your distance
Brake slowly and well in advance of stop signs, traffic lights, and other obstructions. It is harder to stop in the rain, as the risks of sliding are increased. Maintain a greater braking distance between your vehicle and the vehicles ahead of you to give yourself enough time to stop quickly if necessary. When slowing down, pump your brakes several times to flash a warning to drivers behind you.
7. Stay out of puddles
You might be tempted to enjoy the big splash as you plow through a puddle but do your best to avoid standing water. For one thing, it is often deeper than you anticipate, which can cause damage to your vehicle. Additionally, if the puddle is deep enough, it may cause water to get into your engine, which can cause the vehicle to shut down. Standing water can also cause your vehicle to hydroplane.
If you approach water that appears to be deep but you still think you can get across, don’t try it. Immersing a car in water can generate mold and cause a temporary stall, even if you manage to get across. If your car does become submerged, do not restart it, as this could cause the airbags to inflate.
8. Drive defensively
Do not assume everyone around you knows how to drive in the rain. In fact, assume the opposite might be true. Stay alert and focused at all times. Use additional caution when merging or changing lanes. Avoid driving in the rain if you can but remember to drive defensively and be prepared if you absolutely must go out.
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