22 Oct No Slips or Slides: Navigating Wet Roads
As weather gets cold and rainy throughout most of the country, drivers need to adjust the way they’re operating their vehicles to remain safe on the wet roads.
With weather turning cold and wet, rainy conditions will rapidly change road conditions—making them tougher and potentially more dangerous to navigate. Even experienced drivers can have difficulty navigating roads that have suddenly become slick or slippery from the rain.
According to the Auto Insurance Center, which analyzes road data from government agencies and automakers, rain causes more fatalities per year compared to snow in 39 out of 50 states. The AAA has found that wet roads contribute to almost 1.2 million accidents per year.
Rain can contribute to a number of dangerous driving conditions, including:
- Limited visibility
- Loss of traction
- Increased braking distance
- Potholes or damaged roads
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve safety while navigating wet weather.
Driving in the Rain or Fog
Rainy conditions are the most common wet road conditions American drivers face. And, though common, many drivers may not be aware that they have to make adjustments to the way they’re driving their vehicles. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation Registry of Motor Vehicles offers some advice for drivers to better drive in wet conditions:
- Turn on your headlights and tail lights. Inclement weather makes visibility difficult, and lights not only help improve vision, it also makes your vehicle more visible to other cars. In foggy conditions, use your low beams to reduce the glare from the fog.
- Check the condition of your windshield wipers and window defoggers. If these are not in good condition, then your visibility of the road will be severely diminished.
- Increase the distance between you and other vehicles. Since wet weather conditions increase braking distance, you will need to adjust accordingly to stay safe while in traffic.
- If it begins to rain as you’re driving, immediately slow down. Roads are at their most slippery when it starts raining because road dirt, oil, and water create a greasy film that makes hydroplaning more likely.
- Be aware of wet leaves, which can be as slippery as icy conditions.
The Dangers of Hydroplaning
Hydroplaning is one of the most dangerous situations a driver can find themselves in. When a vehicle hydroplanes because of heavy rain or flooding, drivers will lose their ability to steer, potentially resulting in a spin out and a crash.
Here are some tips to help you avoid hydroplaning:
- Take proper care of your tires. Keeping your tires inflated and having an adequate tread will help you travel through areas with heavy rainfall.
- Slow down. Keep your speed at a maximum of 30 mph in particularly wet conditions to avoid hydroplaning or crashing.
- Avoid hard braking and sharp turns, which increase the chances of water getting under your wheels and causing a spin out and crash.
- If you’re driving behind another vehicle, follow in its tracks. Since the other vehicle’s wheels are already displacing water, you’ll encounter less water build-up in front and under your tires.
- Do not use cruise control, which makes it difficult to adjust speed and direction based on how hard it’s raining and the water’s depth, and, in an emergency situation, disabling cruise control takes extra time needed to regain control.
Despite all precautions, hydroplaning can still happen. While dangerous, there are techniques drivers can use to stay safe:
- Take your foot off the gas. Hydroplaning occurs when your vehicle is traveling too fast over a wet surface. Decreasing your speed will help your vehicle get back on track as soon as possible.
- Do not slam on the brakes. While you should try to slow down as much as possible, slamming on the brakes will just cause a skid. Instead, apply the brakes gently to maintain control of your car.
- Steer in the direction your car is hydroplaning. Turning in the opposite direction will cause your car to spin out. When you regain traction, continue to drive as you normally would.
- When you’ve regained control of your vehicle, pull over to calm down. Continuing to drive immediately after a stressful situation can make it difficult to focus on the road.
Following these tips will help keep you as safe as possible when facing seasonally wet road conditions.