Everyone has driven in the rain at some point in their driving career. Maybe you haven’t driven in heavy rain, wind, or even hail, but we’ve all been caught out in the rain at one point or another.
If not – lucky you! Those who have can tell you that it’s not fun, and likely not their ideal way to be out on the road.
There are all kinds of things that can happen during rainy conditions, and knowing how to properly control your vehicle, your nerves, and to apply the proper defensive driving techniques can really save you and everyone else a load of trouble while driving in the rain.
If it’s raining and you have the choice to stay in, sometimes that’s going to be your best choice, but sometimes, that’s not an option.
Here we’ll be going over some tips for safe driving in the rain, and how to maneuver through these conditions like a pro to keep both yourself and others safe from harm.
Take Your Time
One of the best ways to keep yourself from an accident during rainy weather is to slow down. This may not seem like an appealing idea – we all, of course, lead busy lives, and we’ll be darned if a little rain keeps us from doing anything – but it can really save your hide. One of the most dangerous times to drive is right after it begins raining, as that is when the roads are their slickest due to oils on the roadway, and if you get caught out in it or are about to go somewhere, slowing down or waiting a few minutes before leaving is the best way to keep from sliding all over the place.
Slowing down is also a great way to keep your vehicle from hydroplaning, or the action of your vehicle sliding uncontrollably on a wet surface of the road. You may think you will always have control, but when you hydroplane this is not the case, and it takes great care to keep from having an accident when this happens. When you hydroplane, your vehicle is essentially on top of the water instead of the pavement; this is because the water is building up in front of your tires much more quickly than your car can push through it, causing it to lift slightly and your steering and control of the car to become limited.
Make Yourself Visible
You may still be able to see the road perfectly, but having your lights on during rainy weather is a great way to make your vehicle more noticeable to other drivers, both in front of and behind you, as well as any poor pedestrians that find themselves out in that awful weather.
It’s also a requirement by law in some states – such as Tennessee – to have your lights on while it’s raining, so that’s something to keep in mind as well.
Nobody wants to get a ticket, and an officer will like you even less if you make him get out of his cruiser in the rain for something silly. So, that being said, having your lights on during inclement weather such as rain is always your best, safest bet.
Tailgating is never a good idea anyway – not only is it rude, but it also causes other drivers to become nervous or rushed, which is never a good thing – but during rainy conditions it can really cause an accident. In these conditions it can take up to three times the distance to come to a full stop in your vehicle, and if you’re tailgating someone and they have to brake suddenly, you’re likely going to hit them right in the back before you’re even aware of what’s happening.
Use Your Brain
For most of us, driving is a habit. It’s something we don’t really have to think about while we do it, we just do it. During rainy conditions, however, it’s important to adjust your thinking to be more alert and cautious, as many elements have changed because of the weather.
Practice good defensive driving tactics, such as watching out for other drivers and anticipating things before they happen, always being extremely aware of your surroundings, and remaining focused.
No Cruise Control
Cruise control is a wonderful invention during perfect weather, but when it’s raining, it can actually cause you to lose control of your vehicle. This is especially important to remember if you consider the very real possibility of your car hydroplaning, as the cruise control will think you’re slowing down, rather than maintaining speed trying to push through water, and will actually speed your vehicle up. This acts in the same way as you just gunning the accelerator, and will cause your vehicle to spin out, so just stay away from cruise control during this time to save yourself a lot of potential trouble.
Avoid Braking Heavily
When driving on a wet road, it’s dangerous to slam the brakes because the reaction time of your vehicle is lowered.
In case you want to stop or slow down, release the accelerator and push down the brake gently. Braking heavily can lead to losing control of the vehicle.
Stay Away From Puddles
One of the most common causes of accidents during the rainy season is hydroplaning. This occurs when a car skids due to a film of water that is caught between its tires and the road. This prevents the vehicle from slowing down.
As much as possible, slow down and avoid puddles when driving during rainy seasons.
In Case of Hydroplaning, Don’t Accelerate
If you find yourself in this situation, keep calm and try to regain control of the car. To help you slow down the car, remove your foot from the accelerator pedal. Then, steer the wheel in your preferred direction to break out hydroplaning.
Never make sudden or sharp turns and use the brakes heavily as this will cause your vehicle to skid more.
Use Windshield Wipers
We already mentioned that you should always keep yourself visible. But, it is also important to make sure that you’re seeing clearly from the inside. To do this, you must use your windshield wipers.
During a heavy shower, as the rainwater continues to flow on your windshield, it will destroy your view and make everything look farther than they actually are.
Using the windshield wipers makes driving safer and easier because it removes excess moisture on the glass to give you perfect visibility all the time.
Watch For Running Water
Even the largest vehicles can be moved by flowing water, and when you have no choice but to cross a body of moving water on the road, caution is your best friend. If you have the option, it’s always best to turn around and find an alternate route, but if you are unable to, there are a couple things to consider before proceeding:
- Depth – you may know the road well and be able to just go straight through, but if you’re unable to tell how deep the water is, the best idea would be to find another route or drive around it, if possible due to the risk of potholes or other debris.
- Force – if you can clearly see the water running across the road, be very careful. As we mentioned before, running water can move even the biggest vehicle, so it may be best to avoid it, if possible.
Check Your Vehicle
If you’re about to go out while it’s raining, do a quick inspection of your vehicle to make sure everything is in good enough condition to drive safely.
Check your tires for a good tread and air pressure; make sure your windshield wipers are in good condition; and consider keeping an emergency kit in your car with food, water, and other essentials in case you get stuck or run into other trouble while driving.