Each season brings with it changes to the road conditions that, in turn, affect the way we need to drive to remain safe. Driving in inclement weather is different from driving on dry pavement on a fine sunny day. Springtime often brings wet weather that makes seeing other vehicles, road signs, and the even the road itself more difficult, so it is important to be prepared to help ensure that you and your passengers remain safe.
Before you venture out on the roadways this spring, check the following items on your vehicle:
- Windshield wipers: Replace your windshield wipers if they are not working properly. Wipers should be able to clear the glass in one swipe.
- Lights: Make sure your headlights, taillights, brake lights, and turn signals are all working, to increase your vehicle’s visibility. And remember to turn on your headlights whenever you drive, especially in bad weather.
- Tires: A critical factor in improving your traction is safe tires. Check that the tread depth is at least 2/32 inches, or insert a quarter and make sure you cannot see above Washington’s head. If the tread is not deep enough, it is time to replace the tires. Get in the habit of checking the treads and the tire pressure once a month. The correct pressure is set by the manufacturer and typically can be found on the driver’s side door edge or doorpost; it should also be listed in the owner’s manual.
To help prepare you for wet-weather driving, be on the lookout for these common dangers:
Hydroplaning: Hydroplaning occurs when the water in front of the tires builds up faster than it can be pushed out of the way by the car’s weight. The water pressure causes your car to rise up and slide on a layer of water between your tires and the road; essentially, your tires lose contact with the road and skid across the water. It can happen in as little as 1/12 inch of water and at speeds as low as 35 mph. To reduce your chances of hydroplaning, keep your tires properly inflated, maintain your tire tread, slow down, avoid braking hard or turning quickly or sharply, and follow the tracks of the car ahead of you. If you do hydroplane, slow down until you can feel the road again. When you brake, pump slowly.
Skidding: Skidding is another common occurrence on wet roads. As rain falls, it mixes with dirt and oil on the road, creating slippery conditions. You can help prevent skids by slowing down and maintaining easy pressure on the brakes. If you find yourself in a skid, remain calm, and avoid slamming on the brakes. Take your foot off of the gas pedal, and “steer into the skid,” in the direction you want the car to go. If your car has an antilock brake system (ABS), do not pump the brakes; your car’s computer will initiate the pumping action. If your car does not have an ABS, avoid using your brakes.
Tips for Wet Driving
- Avoid using your cruise control when it is raining. When the cruise control is on, slowing down by lifting off of the accelerator is not possible, so you can lose control much more easily.
- Allow at least two car lengths of space between you and the driver in front of you.
- Slow down early for intersections.
- Do not use your high beam headlights. Although it is important to use your headlights in wet weather, high beams can make it harder to see.
- If the water is deeper than the bottom of your doors, you should not attempt to drive through it.
- If it is raining so hard that you cannot see the road or the car in front of you, pull over to a safe spot and wait until the downpour stops.
If your car is in good condition and you are prepared for wet-weather dangers, driving in rainy weather should not be a problem. By taking a few precautions, you can help avoid getting into an accident or worse: becoming a statistic.