According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) driving on a rainy day is more dangerous than driving in snow and sleet. After averaging 10 years of statistics, NHTSA researchers found that 46 percent of weather-related crashes happened during rainfall, but just 17 percent occurred while it was snowing or sleeting.
Making your vehicle safe begins before the rain and before you put it in drive. Your goal is to see and be seen. Replace windshield wiper inserts that leave streaks or don’t clear the glass in a single swipe. Make sure all headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals are properly functioning. When it starts to rain, turn on your headlights. Florida law requires drivers to turn on their headlights when it is raining. Besides helping you see better, it also helps other vehicles see you. Hazard lights should only be used if you pull over and are stationary or your vehicle is stalled. Driving with hazard lights on make it difficult for the person driving behind you to tell whether you are braking. Hazard lights also disable turning signal lights.
Proper tire tread depth and inflation are imperative to maintaining good traction on wet roadways. Check tread depth with a quarter inserted upside down into the tire groove. If you can see above Washington’s head, start shopping for new tires. Check each tires’ pressure, including the spare, at least once a month. When it rains a thin film of water forms on the surface of the road and your tires can lose traction and your car can skid or “hydroplane.” Tire treads or grooves are designed to channel water from beneath the tire to help maintain contact with the road. To avoid hydroplaning, which can happen at speeds of 35 mph, Slow Down when roads are wet, drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you, turn off cruise control, and avoid driving in outer lanes where water tends to accumulate.
Knowing how to handle your vehicle when it hydroplanes can avoid a car crash. If your car begins to hydroplane do not brake or turn the wheel abruptly, this may cause your vehicle to skid or spin. Take your food off the gas and gently turn your steering wheel in the direction your car is hydroplaning. Press the break peddle lightly, because slamming on the brakes will make the hydroplaning worse. It might take a moment or two, but eventually doing these things will put you back in control of how your car moves.
Remember to slow down. Driving fast on wet pavement reduces your traction by about one-third. Bill Van Tassel, manager of driver training programs for the AAA national office in Orlando, Florida recommends drivers reduce their speed by a third when it’s wet or rainy. If the speed limit is 70 mph, aim for under 50 mph. Keep at least 5 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you. To accomplish this, watch the vehicle in front of you as it passes fixed marker, such as a road sign, then count 5 seconds for daytime, and 6 seconds for night time driving.
Do not use cruise control, adaptive cruise control or forward collision warning systems during the rain. When driving with cruise control, your speed remains constant and to disable it you step on the brakes, but that is exactly what you don’t want to do in a hydroplaning situation. When it starts to rain disengage the cruise control. Driving without cruise control transfers some of the weight of the car to the front end of the car when you take your food off the accelerator, providing more traction to the front tires.
Learning how to drive in rain is an important part of living in Florida. Afternoon thunderstorms are the norm, leading to heavy traffic on the major roads. Many of the accidents are from residents not tourists. By following these best practices, we can keep our roads safer.