DRIVING IN RAIN 101
Since we usually don’t get much rain here in Southern California, there are several people that don’t know how to drive safely in the rain. I see people making “not so great” decisions all the time. Speeding, cutting people off, etc. This is definitely not safe in ANY weather, and it’s worse in the rain. Here are a few general tips on how to drive safely in the rain so we can help to prevent accidents:
BE EXTRA CAREFUL AFTER A LONG STRETCH OF DRY WEATHER! The first few hours of rain after having none for a length of time is the most dangerous. Oil and grease build up on the road and when the rain hits it, it can become extra slick and slippery.
NO DISTRACTIONS! It won’t kill you to turn off the music for a little while, or ignore your phone (that you’re not supposed to be messing with anyway) while you’re driving. It might kill you if you are distracted. Pay attention to everything around you, checking in all your mirrors, and keep both hands on the wheel. Driving in the rain is no time to be putting on your makeup, eating a donut, or listening to your voice mails.
HEADLIGHTS! Even in the daytime, you should have your lights on. Even if it doesn’t make a difference in what you can see, it will make it easier for other people to see you. What will make you see clearer is if you put on your defrosters if the windows start to fog up.
RAIN REPELLANT! Since there are no windshield wipers on your side windows or mirrors, rain repellant is a great way to keep them clear.
STAY BACK! Keep a good distance between you and the car in front of you. At least one car length for every 10 mph you are going is the standard. For instance, if you are driving 20 mph, then it’s two car lengths. If you are driving 40 mph, it’s 4 car lengths. It should actually be a greater distance if it is raining.
DRIVE AT AN APPROPRIATE SPEED! If the speed limit is 50 mph, that doesn’t mean you HAVE to drive at 50mph. Drive at whatever (slower) speed feels safe for the conditions you are driving in. If you need to drive slower, then drive slower. You need to be driving at a speed where you can make quick driving decisions if the need arises. It’s also a good idea to leave extra time to get where you are going so you don’t feel like you are in a rush to get there.
CHECK YOUR TIRES! The type of tires you have and the amount of wear on them is very important in deciding how fast you can safely drive. If you have worn tread on your tires, you are more likely to hydroplane. If you DO end up in a hydroplane, take your foot off the gas, and keep the steering wheel straight or slightly in the direction you are supposed to go. DO NOT make quick movements, and you MUST remain calm so you can have control of the situation.
DON’T DRIVE THROUGH FLOODED STREETS! This is common sense, but there have been plenty of news coverage on people that decide to tempt fate and try this anyway. The water is probably deeper than you think it is. Unless you have a car that can transform into a boat, I wouldn’t try it. The water can cause your engine to stall, and your car can even get swept away if the water is deep enough. Just go a different route if possible. Even large puddles can be dangerous if they are hiding a big pothole. If you go around it instead of through it, you might save yourself the cost of a new tire or having to get your tires aligned.
TEST YOUR BRAKES! Wet brakes, especially drum brakes, can be affected if they are driven through deep water. After driving through puddles, give them a gentle test to dry them off a bit and make sure they are still working properly. Also, brake earlier than you normally would and with less pressure since brakes can perform differently in the rain. This will also give the driver behind you a heads up that you are planning on stopping.
DO NOT USE CRUISE CONTROL! If you end up in a hydroplane situation, your car could accelerate if you have the cruise control on. It’s also not a good idea to have your foot away from the pedals when your reaction time is so important.
Using these tips and your own common sense should keep you safe during rainy weather. Enjoy the rain while it’s here, and please stay safe!