How Not to Be an Idiot When Driving In the Rain
Six quick tips so you can handle any storm—whether a light drizzle or a torrential downpour
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:
1. 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 check. Get 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.
2.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.
3.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, and may be legally required in your state.
Repeat this rainy weather mantra: wipers on, headlights on.
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.
5.Never use cruise control
Cruise control is helpful when roads are dry, but can be a problem when it's raining. Cruise control works to maintain a constant speed, so it greatly increases the chances of hydroplaning since it's not smart enough to detect when there's water on the road. Keep your car under full manual control any time you drive in the rain.
Wet roads can be slick and treacherous, increasing stopping distances and the potential for a skid. Give yourself more time to react by driving 5 to 10mph below the speed limit. Keep right, pass safely, always check your mirrors, and leave several car lengths between you and the driver ahead. It might seem like common sense, but anything you can do to be a slower, more attentive, more courteous driver makes rainy weather safer for all drivers.
Rain forces drivers to adjust to an unfamiliar driving technique. Taking extra precautions and simple adjustments shouldn't make your drive much longer and your car and more importantly, you, will arrive at your destination in one piece.