Severe rain and thunderstorms can sometimes make it too risky to go out and drive. Then there are times where the rain catches you in the middle of crowded traffic. No matter the situation, here are some very important tips for safely driving in heavy rain.
Turn Your Lights On
Even when the rain isn’t very strong, it’s a good idea to turn your headlights on because it improves your visibility to other drivers. Many states, North Carolina included, legally require the driver to turn their headlights on in the rain. It doesn’t matter if it’s broad daylight or barely above a drizzle. Turn your lights on (but not your brights) to help protect yourself from a crash or ticket.
Most drivers know about the two second rule, but just in case you don’t, here it is: when the vehicle in front of you passes a landmark, you should be able to fully, naturally count to two before you pass the landmark yourself. This helps keep cars at a safe enough distance in dry daytime conditions. However, you should add one or two more seconds of following time when it’s raining, and definitely two more seconds if it’s raining at night or in other low-visibility conditions.
The faster you’re going, the more likely you are to hydroplane. Your safest bet is to drive at the limit or slower, and always watch the state of the road and traffic around you. Rain is often unpredictable, jumping from light to heavy randomly, so stay slow and aware of the ever-changing situation.
When the rain first begins to wet the road, your tires are at their highest risk of losing traction. Your tires won’t be completely wet yet, which encourages the dry rubber to slip against the wet asphalt. Be especially careful about driving on a wet road if your car has been in a garage or in some other place that kept your tires from getting wet.
If you feel a sudden loss of control from hydroplaning, don’t panic. Carefully turn the wheel in the direction you want to go, keep your foot off the gas, and continue to make corrections as needed. Hydroplaning often takes a few minor corrections as you slow down, before you regain firm traction with the road. The most important thing is to remain calm.
There’s no shame in waiting a little if a storm hits just as you’re about to drive somewhere. Check the weather and see how long it will take or when it’s supposed to calm down. Also, when a storm hits in the middle of a drive, consider pulling in somewhere. On a long drive, the rain could be a good opportunity to visit a rest stop and take a break.
The National Weather Service reports that over half of all flood-related fatalities are also vehicle related. Rain is no joke, but like any other challenging weather condition, a little preparation and knowledge go a long way.