Rain is such a frequent weather phenomenon that drivers don’t actually realise the risk that driving in the rain poses to their safety.
However, if you live in a rainy area or plan to drive in the rain, there are quite a few things you should keep in mind.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately 21% of crashes in the country are weather-related (over one million accidents), killing an average of 5,000 people and injuring over 400,000.
The U.S has a wide array of climates and weather patterns, so much so that in quite a few states it barely rains, such as Nevada, Wyoming, Utah or Arizona. Yet there are some states where rain is highly frequent such as Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or Florida. Not only does it rain, but occasionally there are also strong winds, thunderstorms, hail storms, ice storms…
Because of weather conditions such as these – which are becoming increasingly more frequent due to climate change—it’s crucial to follow a few safety measures to safely drive in the rain.
When it comes to road conditions, rain impacts visibility distance, pavement friction and lane obstruction. For the driver, rain reduces visibility considerably – the heavier the rain, the harder it is to see through the windshield -, it affects the performance of headlights as well as mirrors, cancelling reflecting properties and scattering it.
Additionally, when you drive in the rain, especially in heavy rain, weather conditions can hinder your ability to identify and avoid any potholes, dips or grooves in the road, which are covered by water. This inability can lead to you losing control of the wheel or to considerable damages to your vehicle.
Besides low visibility, rain poses an additional risk: hydroplaning. Hydroplaning may occur when drivers has little to no control over the speed of the vehicle and tires barely graze the surface of the road. In fact, braking and stopping the car can be quite a challenge under these conditions.
When rain is too heavy, not even windshield wipers can help increase visibility, and in cases such as these, it’s best to stop and wait for the rain to pass.
If you have to drive in the rain, there are quite a few things you can do to stay safe.
it becomes clear how important it is to check that your car equipment is in order. It can rain at any time of the year, so it is better not to be caught unprepared, especially when it comes to tires.
A used tire can reduce traction on wet roads, which can be very unsafe for you and others, causing accidents and hydroplaning, particularly when driving at a high speed. It is ideal to drive even slower than the posted speed limited and to avoid cruise control.
To increase visibility while driving in the rain, your windshield needs to be as clear as possible. Hence, your windshield wipers must work properly. Remember to check them beforehand, and should you need to change them, you can simply purchase the wipers and change them yourself.
It is also important to turn on the heater to demist your windshield and windows, increasing visibility.
Even though nowadays it seems impossible not to be in a hurry, slowing down is the best you can do to try to avoid both accidents and hydroplaning. Driving at a high speed increases the chances of your vehicle sliding uncontrollably due to the slippery surface.
Many of the accidents that occur while driving in the rain are caused by underestimating the importance a wet surface has, driving slowly is key to avoid those accidents that would not have happened if it were not raining.
If you have to drive in the rain then do so slowly. Although the best way to avoid any risks is to not drive altogether while it rains, if you must drive, then bear in mind that the worst time to drive is soon after it starts pouring.
It is also advisable, if possible, to pull over until it stops raining; that is obviously the best way to stay safe.
Before beginning your journey, you should check your headlights, tail lights, brake lights and turn signals to make sure they are all working properly. Once you’ve checked those, make sure to turn your lights on.
By turning your headlights on not only will you help other vehicles notice you, but also to increase your own visibility in the road. High-beam lights are the best way to increase visibility when the road is darker due to the rain, yet it can seriously affect the vision of any driver circulating in the opposite way, so whenever cars are coming from the opposite way, try to turn them to low-beam lights.
Because roads become particularly slippery when wet, braking can be more challenging and bringing your car to a stop takes more time. To avoid any possible accidents due to this, it is best to increase distances between yourself and other cars.
Stay at least five seconds behind the vehicle circulating in front of you. If rain pours more heavily, then add another second. If wind increases, then add one more. With every new driving challenge, another second should be added.
The most important thing is to pay special attention to other vehicles. Beware of puddles, sometimes it is difficult to determine their depth and you can damage your car. Be even more alert around vulnerable drivers such as cyclists and motorcyclists.
Should heavy rains be accompanied by strong winds, it is very important to hold firmly to your steering wheel.
Additionally, be especially careful on junctions and when you need to turn. Turning too quickly can be very dangerous for both you and your car, as well as for pedestrians, should any of them be around.
Even though having to drive in the rain can be complicated, at times it’s inevitable. However, by following these helpful guidelines to drive in the rain, you should be able to arrive safely at your destination.