How to Drive (Safely) in the Rain

Let’s be honest—how many times have you been driving in the rain and seen dozens of drivers going too fast, or zooming along with no headlights? Probably pretty often. But how are your own rain-driving skills? Are you sure you’re following the rules, too? Rainy weather and wet pavement conditions have been found to be one of the most dangerous weather-related hazards, worse than snow and ice, so it’s good to make sure you know what to do to keep yourself and others safe on the road.

When There’s Rain in the Forecast:

Check Your Windshield Wipers

Windshield wipers should be replaced once every six months to a year, or whenever you notice that visibility is reduced. Remember, the rain is already going to make it harder to see, and you want to give yourself the best chance of making it home safely. If you know you need new wipers, click over to Amazon or Autozone right after you finish this post. You don’t want to be caught in a downpour when you finally remember you never picked some up!

Keep Your Tires Fresh

To minimize your chance of hydroplaning, keep plenty of tread on your tires. A time-tested method is the penny trick. Place Lincoln head first into your tire treads. If you can see his whole head, your car isn’t ready for rainy weather, and that means it’s time for new tires.

When You’re On the Road:

Turn On Your Headlights

It might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference this makes for everyone else on the road, and how many people don’t do it. And in many states, it’s the law to turn your headlights on when you’re using your windshield wipers. Rain of any intensity will alter road visibility for everyone, and if you don’t have your lights on, there’s a significant chance other drivers will not see you.

Turn Off Auto Pilot

Nope, not in your car. In your head. We often drive “without thinking”, especially if we’re driving a route we take often, like work. When bad weather comes around, it’s important to make sure you’re extra alert and aware of your surroundings at all times, because dangerous conditions can change at a moment’s notice.

Use Your Defrosters

Feel like it’s getting harder to see, even though your wipers and headlights are on?  It’s not in your head—it’s condensation. When the warm, humid air inside the car meets the colder windows and windshield, it can seem like you’re on a high-school date again without the thrill. Turn the defrosters on and turn up the heat, and you’ll be on your way to a safer drive.

Slow Down

This is a big one if you don’t want to flip your vehicle, which we feel is a safe assumption. In rainy conditions even the speed limit is too fast, so reduce your speed by a third on wet roads. If you’re late, call ahead (make it handsfree), then relax. You’ll get there.

That being said, there is such a thing as going so slow that you become a hazard yourself. If you find yourself turning into your grandma while other cars fly by, pull over until the rain has lessened.

Turn Off Cruise Control

Sudden acceleration in the rain can send you into a spin, so just say no to cruise control. It’s also easier to tap the brakes in an emergency if your foot is already hovering near the brake instead of resting away from it.

Give Everyone More Space

Conventional wisdom tells us to leave one car length for every 10 miles per hour that we’re driving, but how many of us do? In the rain, this is non-negotiable. Since the pavement is slippery, your tires have less traction. You could also have water in your brakes, which might make you slide. Point being—you should back off from your neighbor in front. Also, if you have enough distance between you and the autos in front of you, you’ll be less likely to need to slam on your brakes, which could throw you into an immediate hydroplane and make your commute more like a broken amusement park ride.

Look Before You Merge, and Use Your Turn Signal

Failing to stay in the proper lane is the number one cause of crashes in 31 states. In the rain, when roads are slick, it’s much harder to see the lines let alone stay inside of them. Use merging best practices—use your turn signal earlier, check your blind spot with your eyes, not just your mirrors, prepare for your exit, merge one lane at a time, and if you must pass (not the best idea in the rain, so only do it when there’s a hazard) pass on the left.

If You Hydroplane, Don’t Panic

Hydroplaning can be scary, so it’s important to follow the previously discussed pieces of advice in this article to avoid it. However, if you end up hydroplaning despite your best efforts, remember these few steps:

  • Hold onto the steering wheel
  • Keep the front of your wheels pointed straight ahead or steer slowly in the direction you’re trying to go
  • Don’t accelerate, but rather ease your foot off the gas
    • * If you are driving a manual transmission car, disengage the clutch
  • Similarly, do not slam on the brakes. If you were braking when you started to hydroplane, ease up on the brake until you regain control of the car. If you are in danger of colliding with a car or object, you may tap lightly on the brakes to try to slow down.

We hope these tips help you feel more confident next time you’re in the middle of a rainstorm. 

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