When it rains, it pours. At least that’s the case when it starts raining while you’re driving. Driving in the rain is always a bit stressful, no matter how much precipitation is actually falling. Some people on the road freak out when it starts raining, only making your position as a careful driver more difficult. To ensure you are well-equipped for driving in the rain, read our below tips for driving on wet roads so you’re always ready.
The way you react to driving in the rain can be a life-or-death decision. Not to scare you, but driving in the rain can be very dangerous, especially when there are high winds and extremely low visibility. So we want to go over the best tips for driving on wet roads so that you can safely handle the situation when you are caught in rough weather while behind the wheel.
10 Tips for Driving in the Rain That Can Save Your Life
Read over these tips and remember that not everyone on the road will be as informed as you are, so it’s always smart to drive defensively and keep safety at the forefront of your mind.
Tip 1: Think.
In this article, Brent Praeter, a supervising instructor at D&D Driving School Inc., says that most people drive subconsciously. Have you ever gotten in the car, started driving, then miraculously ended up at your destination with no real recollection of the actual drive? That’s driving subconsciously. When the roads are wet, though, it is important that you stay alert and actually think about driving while you are doing it. If you zone out for even a second, a disaster could happen before you have a moment to react. Stay one step ahead of possible danger.
Tip 2: Turn your lights on.
In many states, it is actually illegal to drive in the rain without your headlights on, and for good reason. In any rainy situation, the sky usually turns dark. Even worse, in big storms, visibility on the road can become almost impossible. Without your lights on, people in front or behind you cannot see you. It is never good to be invisible on the road. Plus, when you turn your lights on, hopefully you will remind others to do the same. Safety is key when driving in the rain!
Tip 3: Anticipate gusts.
If you are driving in heavy rain and wind, substantial gusts could be an issue. While they won’t completely blow you off the road, wind gusts can certainly derail you a bit—or, at the very least, catch you off-guard. Stay safe on wet roads by anticipating any strong wind gusts that may take you by surprise and cause you to over-correct.
Tip 4: Take notice of large vehicles.
Bigger is not always better, especially when driving in the rain. Large vehicles, such as semi trucks or vehicles with trailers behind them, are much more susceptible to be affected by strong winds and rains because they have less control of their vehicles. If you are passing a tractor-trailer, for example, be aware that the truck can easily, accidentally move into your lane. There’s a reason truck-driving is America’s deadliest job. Drive defensively and do not pull any crazy moves around these large vehicles—you can usually see the back-ends swaying from the wind or lack of traction, which are clearly not good signs.
Tip #5: Beware of hydroplaning.
Hydroplaning is one of the most imminent dangers when driving on wet roads. Hydroplaning occurs when a layer of water wedges itself between your tires on the road, leaving you with no traction or control of the vehicle. While sometimes hydroplaning is unavoidable, there are certainly some precautions you can take to try to prevent it. Don’t drive on the outermost lanes at high speeds where there seems to be a lot of water buildup. Generally speaking, cars start to hydroplane at speeds above 45-58 miles per hour, so take it slow if you need to. Additionally, if your tires don’t have much tread and are a little deflated, you are at higher risk for hydroplaning.
Tip #6: Slow down.
Especially if you are on an interstate or highway, do not hesitate to go below the speed limit. Speed limit signs are to be used when driving conditions are ideal (clear weather, dry roads), but when the weather is not ideal, these speeds may be unsafe. Take your speed down about 10 miles per hour under the speed limit, and move to the right lane, where slower traffic belongs. It is not worth it to speed on wet roads, risk hydroplaning or some other accident, just to arrive at your destination one minute sooner.
Tip 7: Give space.
The general rule-of-thumb when driving behind another vehicle is to leave about two-seconds’ worth of distance. So, if the car ahead of you passes a tree, it should take you at least two seconds to pass that tree. However, in rainy driving conditions, it is wise to double this distance. Not only is it less stressful on other drivers when you’re not riding their bumper, but in the case that a quick stop needs to be made, you will have enough time (and room) to react and slow down accordingly. Stopping on wet pavement is not the same as coming to a halt on dry pavement—you are much more likely to slide. If you don’t want to hit the car in front of you, give it some space!
Tip #8: Don’t turn on your hazard lights.
It’s a common misconception for drivers to turn on their hazard lights when driving in the rain. While you are required to turn on your headlights, your hazards are not meant for this type of driving. According to AAA, in most states, your hazards are not intended to be used while you are driving unless there is a specific traffic hazard, emergency situation, or you are traveling slower than 30 MPH. Read up on your state’s hazard light rules here.
Tip #9: Limit distractions.
Being a focused driver is your top priority in rainy conditions, so turn the radio down, ignore your passengers, and definitely do not reach for your phone. You will want all of your senses to be useful in case anything unexpected happens. For example, if the rain is beating down on your car and your favorite song is turned all the way up, how will you hear the car next to you frantically honking as you accidentally run them off the road because they’re in your blind spot? Stay aware and don’t take your eyes off the road.
Tip #10: Keep both hands on the wheel.
Lastly, while you’re staying alert, make sure both your hands are firmly gripping the wheel in the proper 10-and-2 position. This will be most helpful in super windy scenarios, especially if you are driving a big vehicle or have a trailer behind you. Big wind gusts can definitely move your car a little bit, so keep everything in check by never letting go of the wheel.
Driving in the rain isn’t ideal, but it is possible to do it safely. Just remember to be extra cautious when driving on wet roads and be aware of potential dangers. We also recommend having a dash cam in your vehicle, so that if an accident does happen while you’re driving in dangerous conditions, you will have footage and documentation.