According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, most weather-related car accidents happen on wet pavement (70%) or during rainfall (46%). As we experience more soggy weather in the midst of El Niño, it's important to know how to safely maneuver your vehicle and avoid weather-related auto accidents, which often cause car insurance rates to rise.
Driving in the Rain Safety Tips
Here are some tips on how to drive safely in the rain:
Check Your Vehicle
Routine car maintenance not only helps catch problems before they become expensive but also helps increase vehicle safety. Consider some of these auto maintenance tips for driving in the rain:
- Maintain your tires — Once a tire's tread is worn below 2/32 of an inch, it can no longer provide the proper traction needed for wet weather. Check your tires regularly and replace them when needed. Additionally, regularly check each tire's air pressure to ensure they're properly inflated to avoid decreased performance and extra tire wear.
- Check your brakes — The braking system is arguably your car’s most important safety feature, so refer to your vehicle’s maintenance schedule to see how often you need to check your brakes. Also, stay alert for any warning signs of failing brakes — e.g., brake light coming on, squealing or grinding noises, vibrations when braking, etc.
- Keep your windshield wipers in good condition — Winter cold can wreak havoc on your blades, so check them before the rainy season arrives.
Slow Down and Increase Following Distance
Slick roads, wet brakes, and reduced visibility can be a recipe for collisions. Slow down, give other vehicles plenty of room, and brake early with reduced force.
You may wonder: What speed is recommended when driving on wet roads, and how much more stopping distance is needed in the rain? A general rule of thumb is to decrease speed by one-third and increase to a three-second following distance.
Use Proper Lighting
Most modern cars come with automatic running lights, but if your vehicle doesn’t have this feature, turn your headlights and tail lights to help other drivers see you. Also, it’s required by law in most states to turn on your lights during bad weather. However, don’t flip on your high beams since the bright light will reflect off wet surfaces, bouncing back to your eyes and irritating other drivers.
Handle Your Vehicle with Care
In addition to slowing down, you also want to be mindful of how you handle your vehicle in the rain. Here are some tips to help ensure you drive safely:
- Avoid jerky, abrupt movement when braking, accelerating, or turning.
- When approaching a curve, slow down and gently brake before you make the turn.
- Don’t use cruise control because it can cause your car to accelerate when hydroplaning and reduce driver attentiveness.
- Grip the steering wheel with both hands to maximize vehicle control. This means putting down your phone, coffee, makeup, or anything else that takes your hands off the wheel and eyes away from the road.
Stay in the Middle Lanes
Staying in the middle lanes while driving in the rain is often recommended because water tends to pool in the outer lanes. Roads are typically designed to be slightly higher in the middle, allowing water to run off towards the edges. This design helps keep standing water from forming, reducing the risk of hydroplaning. However, you should always drive cautiously in wet conditions, regardless of your lane.
Defog Your Windows
Precipitation can cause your windshield to quickly fog up, so you must defog your windows to maximize visibility. Not sure how to defog your windows? Turn on the defrost vent without heat or use the AC to dehumidify the air inside the car. This helps to remove the moisture from the air.
Be Mindful of Hydroplaning
Hydroplaning happens when your tire drives over wet roads or standing water and loses contact with the road, leading to a loss of traction and an inability to steer your vehicle. This can easily lead to an accident, so here are a few tips on how to avoid hydroplaning:
- Ensure your tires are in good condition and have adequate depth.
- Decrease your speed in heavy rain or where water pools.
- Drive in the tracks of the car in front of you because this allows the vehicle ahead to displace any standing water on the road.
- If your car begins to hydroplane, don’t brake or turn the wheel abruptly, as this may cause your vehicle to go into a skid or spin. Take your foot off the gas, keep the wheel straight until your car reclaims traction, and gently apply the brakes if needed.
Watch for Standing Water
When possible, avoid standing water on roadways. Not only can you hydroplane and lose control, but you can impair your vision and other drivers' visibility by splashing through puddles. Additionally, standing water often shields potholes and debris from view, and it can reduce the effectiveness of your vehicle's brakes. If there’s a roadway that’s very flooded, don’t drive through it. Turn around and find another route to take.
Plan Ahead and Stay Informed
With the right preparation and information, you can navigate the rain safely and confidently. Check out these tips on planning ahead and staying informed.
- Check the weather forecast — This simple step provides valuable information about what to expect on your drive. If heavy rain is predicted, you might consider postponing your trip. But if travel is unavoidable, knowing what's ahead will help you prepare accordingly.
- Keep an emergency kit in your car — This emergency kit should include a first-aid kit, flashlight, raincoat, and blanket. It's also a good idea to have a spare tire and the necessary tools to change it.
- Stay informed about road conditions — Follow your local news stations or use mobile apps that provide real-time traffic updates. This will help you avoid areas that are prone to flooding or have been reported to have poor visibility.
Driving in the rain doesn't have to be a nerve-wracking experience. With these tips in mind, you can navigate the roads safely and confidently, no matter what Mother Nature throws your way. Another way to stay safe on the road is to have auto insurance. If you’re looking for cheap car insurance near you, consider Mercury, where we offer best-in-class coverage at an affordable rate.