At this time of year driving in the rain, whether a light shower or a heavy downpour, is pretty much unavoidable. Rainy conditions are also directly linked to higher accident rates. No matter what part of the country you live in, you will find yourself driving your vehicle in the rain at some point. Knowing how wet roads and reduced visibility affects the way you and your vehicle react will help you drive safely in rainy conditions.
Wait until the weather improves if possible
If you feel uncomfortable driving in the rain and can postpone your trip or commute, wait until the weather improves before driving. There is no reason to put yourself in danger if driving in wet conditions is not necessary. If it’s not urgent you’re better off indoors with a cup of tea while you wait for the rain to stop.
Double check your car’s equipment
Making sure that your car’s equipment is in working order before you head out into rainy weather is vital. Check your headlights, tail lights, and windscreen wipers to make sure that they work when they are needed. You should keep an eye on the tread of your vehicle’s tyres; reduced tread depth can severely reduce traction on wet roads.
It goes without saying that you should stick to the speed limit when driving in any weather conditions, but you should probably be driving slower than you normally would when it’s raining. Rain on the windscreen can obscure your vision and affect your reaction time, not to mention the effect it can have on grip and braking distances. Keep a larger gap from the vehicle in front and give you and your car time to react if necessary. This is especially so at night time when you get light refractions through your windscreen.
Turn on your lights and wipers
Turn on your lights while driving in rain is always a good idea. Even if it is only a light drizzle, turning on your headlights will increase both your own visibility and other drivers’ ability to see your car on the road. We’re not talking about full beam and foglights, even sidelights can make a difference when it comes to visibility. Same with your wipers. It should be common sense but even the lightest rain can soon obscure your vision if you don’t clear it out of the way. If you can hear a scraping noise or see some streaking from the blades they need replacing or they need cleaning - get a cloth with some white spirit to remove built up road grease from them.
Avoid heavy braking
Try to slow your vehicle by taking your foot off the accelerator earlier than you normally would in preparation to slow down or stop. Don’t use cruise control so you can concentrate on using both the accelerator and brake to maintain better control. When you do apply the brakes try and maintain a smooth, even pressure to minimise the chances of losing traction.
Watch out for standing water
Driving through standing water can cause aquaplaning to occur. This happens when you hit deeper water causing the tyre to ‘float’ across the surface of the road, losing traction and braking performance. To avoid aquaplaning, drive around places where water has collected by changing lanes or safely steering around such areas where possible. If you do have to drive through deeper water reduce your speed to let your tyre tread disperse the water and maintain grip. If your car starts to aquaplane take your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction that the front of your car needs to go. Avoid making sudden turns or slamming on your brakes until you tyres have regained traction
Ventilate your car
Wet people and warm cars generally means more condensation which can fog up the windows and quickly reduce visibility. Most cars’ ventilation systems include a function that will help keep your windscreen clear. If it can’t keep up with the condensation lower the temperature inside your car quickly by cracking open a window.
Staying safe while driving in the rain is simple if you make a conscious effort to be aware of these safety precautions. Remember that reducing your speed and turning on your lights are two of the simplest and most effective ways of reducing the chances of an accident caused by wet weather.
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