Even with years of experience, you may still get a little uncomfortable driving in bad weather conditions. And for older drivers with disabilities, slower reflexes or vision limitations, driving in the rain can be quite dangerous. The best thing you can do is to be prepared.
Before you drive in the rain
- Give yourself more time to get to your destination when driving in bad weather.
- Check your vehicle and make sure your tires, wipers and lights are in good condition.
- If you have a cell phone, make sure it’s charged. Just don’t use it while you’re driving – that’s dangerous and illegal in some states.
- Have an emergency kit in your vehicle.
When you’re on the road
- As soon as you start the car, turn on your headlights and wipers.
- Give yourself plenty of space around other vehicles.
When possible, drive in the middle lane of a three-lane road. Most roads are higher in the middle, which means there’s a greater chance of water runoff and standing water in the side lanes.
In wet conditions, areas of standing water can cause your vehicle’s tires to lose contact with the roadway. As speed increases, water between the tires and the road can build up until the tires begin to ride on a thin film of water. This is called hydroplaning.
Even with adequate tire tread, hydroplaning can occur at speeds as low as 30 mph. Usually a driver has little warning that a critical speed has been reached until a slight turn or curve causes a skid.
- Slow down when you see water standing on the surface of the pavement, especially on freeways.
- Drive in the tracks left by any vehicle ahead.
- Use tires with deep, open treads and be sure to inflate them to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure.
- If hydroplaning does occur, do not brake. Instead, ease your foot off the accelerator to gradually decrease speed until your tires regain traction, and continue to look and steer where you want to go.
Braking in wet conditions is tricky business. Sudden, hard or prolonged braking can cause a skid.
If your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes (ABS), all you need to do is press the brake pedal and hold it down. Do not pump the brakes, because ABS does that very rapidly for you. The system automatically senses if a wheel begins to lock and quickly releases and reapplies the brakes as many times as necessary to keep the wheel from locking up.
If your vehicle is not equipped with anti-lock brakes, the best way to brake under these conditions is to use squeeze braking. For squeeze braking, keep your heel on the floor and use your toes to apply pressure on the brake pedal. If the wheels lock, ease off the brake pedal to a point where they just release. Adjust pedal pressure as necessary. This gives you the best combination of braking effort and directional control.