If you’re hailing from the southeastern states of the US, chances are, you have to deal with heavy rainfall several times throughout the year. Driving in the rain also causes several accidents because of low visibility and unpredictable handling. A recent analysis of federal data revealed that rain is more deadly than snow and ice, causing more fatalities than both in most of the U.S.
Although most modern cars from the humble Honda Civic to the large Chevy Tahoe come equipped with advanced safety technologies, you must still do your part to avoid hazards during a rainstorm. By following some tips, you’ll be able to travel safely through tough conditions.
Before you even start driving, check some vital components like the tires, brakes, and windscreen wipers.
Tires are one of the most important components of your car, responsible for connecting the carT to the tarmac. Before driving in a rainstorm, make sure all four tires are in good condition. Starting with the treads, you can use a penny for the tread depth test, to determine the depth.
If you see all of Lincoln’s head, it means the tire is worn out, and if the head is obscured, the tires have adequate tread. Also, check for uneven wear on the tires due to worn-out suspension components.
Tires also dry out after 5 years, so make sure you replace them even if they look serviceable. Maintaining the right tire pressure is just as important as its condition. Make sure you follow the recommended pressures on all four tires for better grip in undesirable conditions.
Before setting off, make sure your headlights are working properly and the beam is set right. Check all other lights including tail lights, indicators, and DRLs to improve visibility during heavy rain, and light up the road ahead. In case of foggy conditions, remember to use your fog lights to improve visibility.
Although most states require you to turn on your headlights during bad weather, turn it on even if it’s just a drizzle to increase your visibility to other drivers on the road. Always used dipped beams to avoid blinding other road users.
- Windshield Wipers
Like your tires, wiper blades are made of rubber and can also wear out with time. If the rubber hardens, it can streak water and reduce visibility during heavy rains. Ideally, they should be replaced before every season if you drive a lot. While inspecting the wipers, also top up the windshield washer fluid reservoir.
Also, remember to service the rear wiper, if your car has one. Even during small rains, use the wipers at the appropriate speed to improve visibility, Some windshield coating sprays and products are also available that allow water to run off without collecting on the windshield, further improving visibility.
Important tips to follow during a rainstorm
Now that we’ve covered all the vital components, here are some important tips to help you drive safely during heavy rains.
- Clean your car
To improve overall visibility, thoroughly clean your car including all the glass areas and headlight lenses at least once a month. Some products and coatings also allow water to run off glass areas for improved visibility.
- Keep a slow pace
Considering the safety of all road users, always maintain a slow pace when weather conditions are not ideal. Stay below the speed limit and keep a safe distance from other road users. Ideally, double the distance between the vehicle in front since the brakes are less effective when wet. It will also give you ample reaction time to avoid collisions.
On the topic of brakes, maximize engine braking whenever possible, and avoid sharp braking. The first rain shower is always the most dangerous since the water mixes with oil, causing a slick road surface that can be dangerous. Also, avoid using cruise control in the rain, as it can cause hydroplaning because of automatic acceleration.
In case you hydroplane, don’t panic and let off the gas, steering in the direction that the front needs to go. Avoid heavy braking and any sudden direction changes till you regain control.
- Know the roads
Always know where you’re going. Some roads are susceptible to waterlogging during heavy rains, which will be dangerous. So, plan your route accordingly to avoid any risky roads like low-lying bridges and underpasses. Flooded roads can also cause hydroplaning which can make the car lose control.
- Navigating flooded roads
If you find yourself on a flooded road, try to stay in the middle of the road. Even with three inches of water on the road, drivers can lose control if they don’t take a slow pace. If the water level is too high, don’t rush in and drive slowly, following the bow wave, making sure the water doesn’t reach the intake. Only attempt to cross the waterlogged road if you’re out of options as you can severely damage your car. If your car stalls while driving, do not attempt to restart it and tow it to a mechanic for repairs.
- Use ventilation and defoggers
During rains, the humidity levels inside your car will rise because of the temperature difference, causing the windows to fog up, hindering visibility. To avoid this, use your car’s ventilation system liberally. If the visibility is too low, pull over and wait for the windows to clear before driving again. Using defoggers will also help the situation, and clear the rear windshield and side mirrors.
- Avoid unnecessary trips
If the conditions are not ideal for driving, avoid taking the car out. Only drive if the trip is urgent. TV news reports will usually predict the upcoming weather conditions, allowing you to plan ahead and avoid unnecessary trips.
- Wait it out
If the weather gets too harsh and dangerous, waiting it out is always the best option. Make sure you pull into a safe area or parking lot and avoid busy streets while waiting out the storm. Once the weather clears, continue your journey again. Some situations are too risky and not worth the risk or effort.
By following all these tips and maintaining all the vital components in your car, you’ll be a lot safer when driving in a rainstorm.