Driving Safely in the Rain

Driving in the rain can be stressful, not to mention dangerous. It can be hard to see the road, and conditions can be less than ideal for tire-on-pavement transportation. Even without traffic, water affects how your car handles and turns what might otherwise safe ride into a major hazard. To get where you need to go safely when it’s raining, it’s best to plan ahead and adjust your habits behind the wheel.

Here are six things you can do to drive safely in the rain:

 Check your tires

Car tires have treads, the pattern of grooves and channels along their circumference. The tread works to create grip on the road by channeling water, mud, and debris away from the contact patch. With use, the tread wears down and becomes much more likely to slip or spin on wet surfaces.

If you’re not sure your tread is deep enough to stay safe, use the penny test to checkGet a penny and insert it in the tread with Lincoln’s head pointed at the center of the wheel. If you can’t see his hair, your tires are good. If you can see the top of his head, it’s time for new tires.

Inspect your windshield wipers

Without windshield wipers, wet weather driving would be like swimming without goggles. Rubber wiper blades collect grime and wear out, leading to streaks or inconsistent wet patches on the windshield. You can clean them by rubbing the blade with rubbing alcohol, but if you notice any cracks or chunks missing, it’s time to buy a new set. The motor and linkage that actually move the wipers can wear out, too, so if yours aren’t working properly, get them inspected to see what’s broken.

Turn on your headlights

Given how significantly rain can impact visibility, do everything you can to make yourself easy to see to other drivers. Driving a bright green exotic is one option, but there’s a far simpler solution – just turn on your headlights. It’s the least you can do to make yourself noticeable. Some states have required it by law.

Avoid hydroplaning

There’s a misconception that driving through a puddle quickly is safest because you’ll get through it faster, but the inverse is actually true. If you’re moving fast enough, your tires will skim over the surface of the water, causing you to hydroplane and potentially lose control of your vehicle.

If you start to hydroplane, keep both hands on the steering wheel and gradually apply the brakes. Slamming on the brakes or jerking the wheel can cause a skid. The best way to avoid this situation altogether is to look far down the road and reduce speed when you approach a puddle.

Never use cruise control

 

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