Safe Driving Tips For A Rainy Day

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Photo from Alex Proimos

Every time a storm hits, two things usually happen: my power goes out, and I inevitably find myself driving through hazardous rain and flooding. With this very scenario playing out earlier this week, it wasn’t a broad leap to consider a post on how you, the auto insurance customer, can drive safer in rainfall.

When you’re out there, you’ll have to deal with poor visibility, slick road conditions, and possible hydroplaning. While there is a lot of advice out there on how to negotiate these situations, we decided to turn to our friends at Nationwide for some insurer-backed tips. Keep these in mind as you drive in to a rainstorm.


Know Your Safety Features

Most cars are equipped with a number of safety features to make your drive less hazardous. These include headlights, a defroster, your tire tread, windshield wipers, and cruise control at the most basic. With headlights, make sure they’re always on when driving in the rain, no matter if it’s day or night. Not only will it keep you safer and improve visibility, but also, in many states, it will keep you in compliance with the law.

Your defroster will ensure windows stay properly de-fogged, while tire tread will provide a bit more grip to deal with those slick road conditions. Nationwide notes to “Examine the tread on your tires,” warning that “Worn tread decreases traction and increases the likelihood of skidding.”

“Test your tread by inserting a penny between the tread upside down,” the company advises. “If Lincoln’s head is covered, tire tread depth is good. If Lincoln’s head is uncovered, it’s too low, and the tire should be replaced.”

As for cruise control, this safety feature can normally keep you from going too fast, but in rainy weather conditions, forget that you have it. Cruise control on wet pavement “may interpret loss of traction as reducing speed and increase acceleration to compensate,” Nationwide points out. This may cause the vehicle to veer dangerously.

Finally, windshield wipers and weather repellent products can assist your line of sight when it really starts to come down. “It sounds obvious, but turn on the windshield wipers when it rains,” states the company. “You need a clear view. You can also use rain repellent products on windows to help proactively clear water from the glass.”


Know How To Avoid Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning or skidding may occur when a vehicle loses traction after hitting a patch of water. According to driving experts, water builds up on front of the tires so fast that the car’s weight can’t push it out of the way, and it’s this action that causes the car to ride on top of the water and slide until traction is restored.

To avoid this from happening, Nationwide recommends maintaining a controlled speed, especially on curves; steering and braking lightly, thus avoiding sudden corrections that cause a loss of traction when slamming on the brakes; keeping tires properly inflated and being sure there’s good tread depth; and staying calm if you start hydroplaning by easing off the gas and avoiding the urge to slam on the brakes or jerk the steering wheel.


Know Best Practices For Driving In The Rain

In addition to the above information, Nationwide also recommends the following tips for best driving practices during these types of situations:

  • Keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times
  • Eliminate distractions – cell phones, radio, people talking, etc…
  • Keep six car lengths between you and the car ahead
  • Maintain a safe speed. A rule of thumb: Reduce your speed by 10 m.p.h. for each level you increase your windshield wiper speed
  • Avoid flooded roads. Deep water can stall your engine and even cause your vehicle to float
  • Drive in the middle lanes, since water is usually deeper in the outside lanes
  • Drive in the tracks of the vehicles ahead of you
  • Be careful around large trucks and buses. Don’t follow too closely; spray from their large tires can hit your windshield and temporarily obscure your vision. Pass with caution, but get around these large vehicles quickly and safely
  • Watch for brake lights ahead


In Summary

While you can control much of your own driving in rainy conditions, poor visibility is something that may stretch beyond your control. Should this happen, pull off onto the shoulder until the weather clears out enough to continue. And as always, watch out for other drivers, who may not be as skilled or knowledgeable. Stay safe, everyone, and don’t forget an umbrella.

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