Rain vs snow
Which would you rather drive on – snowy roads or wet roads? Most people would likely answer wet roads without hesitation. While we associate winter weather with fender benders and collisions, some statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) might make you rethink your answer.
Based on 10 years of data (2005-2014), NHTSA found that 73% of weather-related crashes occurred on wet roads1. Additionally, 46% of weather-related wrecks involved rainfall while just 17% of crashes happened while it was snowing or sleeting1. Surprised? Read on to learn what you can do to reduce the risks of driving on wet roads.
Ensure that your car is ready for rain. Make sure that your windshield wipers are in working order and inspect them periodically for splits in the rubber and other visible signs of damage. If you detect any issues, change your wipers immediately. Also, run the wipers to check for streaking, skipping and squeaking. Keep your windshield free of dirt and debris to avoid these problems.
Examine your tires on a regular basis to make sure they are up to safely carrying you and your passengers on wet roads. Look for uneven and/or excessive tread wear and also be on the lookout for other signs of damage like bulges in the sidewalls. If you notice any damage or if the tread is wearing low, replace the tire right away.
Lay off the accelerator and drive for the conditions. Even if traffic around you doesn’t slow down, don’t follow the crowd. Even just a short rain shower can make roads slippery. Oil on the road mixes with the rain to create slick spots, making it even easier to lose traction. Driving fast can exacerbate the problem, so having your tires maintain contact with the road is key to safely traveling on wet roads.
Turn on your lights
It is typically dark and overcast during rainstorms. To ensure that you can see and others can see you, be sure to turn on your lights when the rain starts to fall. Even if your vehicle has daytime running lights, you should still turn on your lights to trigger your taillights so that you’re visible to cars behind you.
During inclement weather, put more distance between your car and other vehicles. In good weather, you should keep two seconds between yourself and the car ahead of you; in heavy rainfall, increase the distance to at least six seconds. The additional seconds gives you the extra reaction time you need when traveling on wet roads. If possible, avoid getting boxed in by cars on either side of you. The more space you have gives you the ability to maneuver out of an emergency situation.
Turn off cruise control
A great feature on dry roads, using cruise control on wet roads could cause you to lose control of your vehicle. If the cruise control is on, you won’t be able to lay off the accelerator if conditions suddenly change.
Avoid driving through puddles no matter how small. If the water is past the bottom of your door, turn around. Driving through deep water can cause damage to your vehicle’s electrical system. Never drive through moving water – if you can’t see the ground, you could be swept away.
When your tires run into more water than they can displace, it is called hydroplaning, which means that you are riding on a top layer of water and have lost contact with the road. As your tires lose traction, it results in a loss of control, braking and steering. Hydroplaning can happen in as little as 1/12" of water.
It is a helpless feeling as your vehicle glides across the road. If you start to hydroplane, stay calm and follow these tips to successfully navigate out of a slide:
- Ease off the gas pedal; wait until you regain control before accelerating.
- Don’t slam on the brakes; it can cause you to lose further control.
- Steer in the direction you want to go; don’t steer sharply, you could overcorrect.
Additional sources: 1How Do Weather Events Impact Roads
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