My 12-year-old daughter is still a few years away from driving a car. Still, as a responsible parent, I feel it’s my duty to prepare her for the coming days when she will inevitably be getting behind the wheel.
One day while we were on the road together and the skies opened up, I asked her (just for giggles) if she knew what to do while driving in the rain. Naturally, she responded with the kind of incredulous answer that only a moody tween could possibly muster.
“I don’t know, Dad,” she said with a sarcastic eye-roll. “Maybe turn on the windshield wipers?”
Good answer, sweetheart. But there’s a little more to it than that. Here are a handful of tips that will surely come in handy when the roads are wet, even if you aren’t riding with a wisecracking kid.
1. Hydroplaning is not your friend
Care to guess when you’re most at risk to hydroplane on a wet surface? It actually can happen in the first 10 minutes of a light rainfall when the water mixes with the oily residue on the roads, creating slippery conditions. Naturally, the potential for skidding only grows the longer the rain continues. So what’s the obvious answer for how to avoid hydroplaning? Slow down! Since more than 30 percent of all auto accidents are speed-related according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission anyway, it only makes sense to take your foot off the pedal, especially when it’s raining.
2. Don’t be afraid to pull over
It can be tempting to try to power through the rain while driving, especially when you’re in a hurry. But depending on just how poor visibility may be, getting off the road to wait out the storm isn’t the worst choice. Sitting at a parking lot or a gas station for a few minutes could go a long way toward preserving your safety. And if you have to pull over onto the shoulder, don’t forget to turn on your hazards.
3. Spatial awareness
Anyone who remembers the lessons learned in their driver’s ed classes may recall the two-second rule. It’s the guideline that helps drivers maintain a safe distance (or a two-second buffer) behind the car traveling ahead of them. Two seconds is a typically a safe gap under the safest of road conditions, so it’s only logical to add more time when the roads are slick. Even an alert driver would be wise to add another second or two in order to allow more time to react to other drivers battling the rain.
4. Turn your lights on and your hazards off
Driving with your headlights on even under sunny skies isn’t a bad idea. Any time you’re making yourself more visible to other drivers on the road, you’re doing yourself and others a favor. Turning your lights on in the rain should be a no-brainer. It’s typically darker during storms and visibility can be drastically decreased, and it’s obviously important for other cars to see you as clearly as possible. That being said, it’s equally important (and in some states illegal) to drive with your hazard lights during a rainstorm. The hazards typically signify that a car has stopped, so it can be dangerous and confusing for other drivers if yours are on.
Driving in the rain can certainly be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare if you just follow a few simple guidelines and use your common sense. And maybe take any advice from a 12-year-old with a grain of salt.