Rain is in the forecast all weekend long, as well as at least one day next week.
Here are some tips to help you get to your destination safety from the California Office of Traffic Safety, with a few additives from my life experiences, as well as from doing ride alongs with local police agencies:
- Make sure your windshield wipers are clean of debris and grime and are in good working order. Also, clean your windshield’s interior of debris, hand prints, etc. Dirty or broken wipers will not adequately wipe your windows free of raindrops, leaving streaks and making it difficult to see. Also, dirty windshield interiors seem to catch and intensify the headlights of oncoming cars, skewing visibility.
- Check the tread on your tires. If the tread is in line with or below the indicator markings on your tires, time to get new ones. Having tires with inadequate tread increases your risk of hydroplaning, popping your tires or other hazardous conditions.
- Use your seat belt every time you get in the car and hit the road – long trips, as well as short ones just a few blocks or miles away. Most crashes happen close to home. If you have children in the car, make sure they are properly buckled up as well. Seat belt use and child restrain systems help reduce injury and save lives by preventing vehicle occupants from being thrown from the car in the event of a crash.
- Turn on your headlights when the weather is cloudy, foggy and wet. This helps other drivers see you when it’s difficult to see anything at all. No matter the color of your vehicle, in bad weather your car may blend into the bad weather, making it difficult for other drives to see you and possibly hit you.
- Don’t text or talk on your cell phone while driving. If you must take or make a call or look up some information on your phone, pull over to a safe place to do so. Do not use emergency lanes on the highway of on and off ramps to use your phone unless it is an emergency, such as a flat tire or other vehicle break down. The freeway is not the safest place to stop for a leisurely conversation. Inattentive drivers can hit you.
- Don’t drive angry.
- Slow down a bit, the higher rate of speed makes it easier to hydroplane and more difficult to stop. Also, consider this: Do not drive faster than your headlights allow you to see. That means do not drive beyond the limits of your visibility. You don’t know what lies up ahead and glare from oncoming lights, amplified by the rain on the windshield, can cause temporary loss of visibility while substantially increasing driver fatigue.
- When on a multi-lane road, use the middle lane, as water pools up in the outside lanes. Driving through big puddles may be fun, but they also can be dangerous. The high water can get to your engine, causing you to stall out. Also, since you cannot see through the puddle, there may be something there to pop your tires. And don’t forget, it’s difficult to steer through puddles, so going through one too fast, can cause you to lose control and crash.
- In the same vein as the above, avoid driving through moving water if you cannot see the ground beneath it. Your vehicle can be swept off the road.
- Do not use cruise control on wet or icy roads. Doing so can cause loss of traction and skidding.
- Avoid slamming on the brakes when you need to slow down or stop. You risk locking your wheels and going into a skid. Instead, maintain mild pressure on your brake pedal.
- “Hydroplaning” occurs when driving too fast in heavy rain causes your vehicle to ride on top of a thin layer of water. This is a dangerous situation to be in because you can go into a skid and/or drift out of your lane. If this happens:
- Do not brake or turn. Ease your foot off the gas until the vehicle slows and you can feel traction on the road again.
- Turn your steering wheel in the direction of the skid. As you recover control, gently straighten the wheels.
- If you need to brake, do it gently with light pumping action. If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally. Your vehicle’s computer will mimic a pumping action.
- If you are a pedestrian or cyclist who enjoys being out in the elements, make sure you wear bright, reflective garments. If drivers can’t see other cars on the road without their headlights on, they will have more difficulty seeing your see your small frame. DO NOT WEAR BLACK! I know it’s hip and it goes with everything, but when the weather is dark and wet, blending in with your surroundings is not a good idea.
- Also, for everyone on the road, follow the rules of the road. When it’s difficult to see, stop and move without sliding, the rules, such as not trying to beat the yellow and stopping at stop lights, as well as stop signs – whether you are on foot or on wheels — can save your life.
Learn more about winter weather driving, including navigating through snow, at http://www.ots.ca.gov/OTS_and_Traffic_Safety/Traffic_Safety_Tips/winter_driving_tips.asp.