Wet-weather driving safety

Many assume snowy and icy roads are more dangerous than wet ones, but that’s not the case. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 46 percent of weather-related crashes happen during rainfall, as opposed to 17 percent while it’s snowing or sleeting. Some of that can be explained by the fact that many drivers stay home during a bad snowstorm, but it can also be because drivers often don’t adjust their driving habits to accommodate wet pavement conditions

Respect the rain! Below are some tips to help you stay safe.

Get your car rain ready:

  • Insert a quarter upside down into your tire tread, and if the top of Washington's head is exposed at any point, you should replace the tires. Also, make sure your tires are inflated according to the manufacturer’s recommendation
  • Make sure your windshield wipers are working well and can clear the glass in a single pass.
  • Check headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals to be sure all are working properly. When you're driving, turn on your headlights so you can see better AND so others can see you more easily. Some states require you to use your headlights if you’re using your windshield wipers.

Slow it down: When pavement is wet, there’s less friction. And less friction means your tires don’t grip as well making it harder to control the direction of your car, as well as stop it. As a general rule of thumb, reduce your speed by 1/3 on wet pavement.

Back off: When driving on dry pavement, you should stay three to four seconds behind the vehicle in front of you – measure this by watching as the car in front of you passes a fixed object (like a sign); then count three seconds. In the rain, increase that count to five. If it’s raining at night – make it six.

If you hydroplane: Hydroplaning happens when your tires lose contact with the pavement because they’re riding on top of a layer of water, which can happen when you’re going as slow as 35 mph. If you hydroplane, gently ease your foot off the accelerator. This action will transfer weight to the front of the car and may help your front tires regain contact with the road. If that doesn’t work, gently squeeze your brakes to slow the vehicle down. Don’t turn the wheel when hydroplaning, as steering won’t be possible when the tires are riding on a film of water. And if you’ve redirected the steering wheel, you may find you’re not heading in a safe direction when your tires once again make contact with the pavement.

Taking extra precautions can help keep everyone on the road safer, but if an accident does happen, follow this auto accident checklist.

Sources: NHTTSA; AAA

WBLT-0743 (Apr. 19)

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