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Driving can be hard work at the best of times, but when rainfall is thrown into the mix things can get really difficult. A downpour certainly makes traveling by car more dangerous, so run through this checklist to make sure you are doing everything possible to add to your safety in the wet.
10 ways to drive safely when it’s raining
1. Check your tires
Worn or bald tires are dangerous even in dry conditions. In a wet environment, they can mean the difference between life and death. Check your tires regularly, and if you are not sure what to look for have them inspected by an auto technician or tire specialist.
2. Check your windscreen wiper blades
Your windscreen wipers are another essential safety feature. Don’t wait until it is raining heavily to find out that your wiper blades are badly worn and need replacing. A light shower of rain can leave a dirty windscreen badly smeared, so use the automatic windscreen spray or stop at a service station to clean the outside of the screen before continuing on your journey.
3. De-fog the inside of your windows
On a cool, wet day, the air inside your car is already moist. As you and your passengers breathe and exhale, you are adding to the humidity, with the result that the vapor condenses on the nearest cold surfaces: the windscreen and side windows. Suddenly you are driving blind. Clear the fog by turning on the air conditioning and directing the vents towards the windscreen and side windows. Adjust the temperature to a warmer setting to speed up the process. If you don’t have air conditioning, try opening the windows wide and putting up with a bit of rain inside the car. Use the rear screen de-mister if you have one. The view in your wing mirrors may be distorted by raindrops, so be prepared to rely more on your interior rear vision mirror.
4. Put your lights on
If it’s raining in the daytime, putting on your headlights and tail lights isn’t going to help you see any better, but it will certainly help other drivers to see you.
5. Reduce speed
Road surfaces become slippery in wet conditions, so you need to give yourself more time to brake. Making turns and changing traffic lanes at lower speeds is also less likely to result in a skid. So reduce your speed by at least six miles (ten kilometers) per hour when compared with the speed you would normally use for the road you are on.
6. Increase the distance between your vehicle and the one in front
Those same slippery road surfaces are going to make it more difficult to avoid a collision if the car in front of you suddenly starts to brake. A safe traveling distance on a dry road can become a recipe for disaster in the wet. The distance required for your vehicle to come to a full stop increases by about 50% in wet conditions. Play it safe and stay well away from the car in front of you.
7. Brake gently to avoid skids
When you need to slow the vehicle because of heavy traffic, stop lights or turning, try to do so more gently than normal. This means you need to start braking earlier and keep an eye on changing traffic lights. Gentler braking will reduce the likelihood of skids, but tire manufacturer Goodyear recommends that drivers should learn how to recover from a skid, just in case.
8. Watch out for potentially deep pools of water
A sheet of water which looks quite shallow can actually be very deep, especially at the edges of the roads where drains may become overloaded during a heavy downpour. If you hit a deep pool of water at high speed, you risk aquaplaning. Also known as hydroplaning, this is a situation where the build up of water between the tires and the road surface results in an immediate and dangerous loss of traction. Your vehicle could become impossible to control, making a collision extremely likely. Slow right down if you see a sheet or pool of water ahead.
9. Pedestrians’ vision is reduced too
Those other road users, pedestrians, are also having trouble adapting to the rain. Their vision may be impeded by umbrellas and coat hoods, and they are more likely to indulge in risky maneuvers such as dashing across the road quickly. Make allowances, and watch out for them even more than you normally would.
10. Consider pulling over in a torrential downpour
Finally, know when to give in. If you live in a part of the world that suffers from extreme rainfall events, you know that there are some situations when it is safer just to find a safe place to stop and park until conditions improve. Do make sure you get well off the road.
Unless you live in Antarctica or the Atacama Desert, you are going to be driving in rain at some time or another. By observing the points on this list you will increase your chances of arriving safely at your destination.