By Catherine Powell
|Image courtesy Pixabay|
As the saying goes, “When it rains, it pours.” In Florida, this sometimes means driving in a white squall on the interstate where you can barely see past the hood of your car. It also means expecting torrential downpours on a nearly daily basis during the summer months. Due to the nature of the peninsula, you can literally go from having to deal with driving rain to bone dry and back again every mile or so as you head north or south in June, July, and August. If you’ve ever been stuck in a monster traffic jam caused by a weather-related car crash, then you’ll appreciate today’s ten tips that are designed to help you drive safely in the rain.
- Turn on your headlights when the visibility drops to zero. This will make your vehicle that much easier to see. That doesn’t mean you should activate your flashers. Those should only be used if you pull over and stop.
- Speaking of pulling over, it isn’t a good idea to do so on the interstate since it’s all too easy for a passing car or truck to rear-end you if they stray from the lane. A much better tactic is to slow down, but not to a crawl. This also invites being rear-ended by another vehicle. If you feel you must get off the road, wait until the next exit. Just be aware that in a squall you may find the offramp flooded.
- How slow should you go? The problem is that all too many drivers slow down too much too quickly when visibility drops during a downpour. As a result, they invite a collision from the vehicles behind them. The only safe speed in a heavy downpour is that which is set by the traffic ahead. This means you shouldn't suddenly slow to a crawl unless the traffic ahead does so. Reduce speed to go with the flow and don’t follow too closely to the vehicle ahead of you.
- Leave more space between you and the car ahead when wet weather occurs. While a 2-second lead between you and the vehicle ahead is fine in dry weather, you need to double the distance whenever the road is wet. When it rains, you run the risk of losing traction because of hydroplaning. This means if you need to give yourself plenty of room to slow down. Only change lanes when you absolutely have to. Better to stay behind slower vehicles in a squall than try to pass only to be rear-ended by a vehicle you never saw coming.
- Unless your car comes equipped with adaptive cruise, you’re better off turning cruise control off. Adaptive cruise uses lidar to sense vehicles ahead of you and will adjust your vehicle’s speed should traffic slow down. It also allows you to adjust your lead distance from the vehicle ahead of yours, even those you can’t see. Traditional cruise control is simply meant to keep your vehicle traveling at a fixed speed which in the case of wet weather is counterproductive, to say the least. Even if you have adaptive cruise control, you need to be ready to disengage it if you see standing water on the roadway. If the brakes were to suddenly engage on a wet road, you risk losing control.
- Speaking of losing control, you should avoid sudden movements like lane changes and hard braking in wet weather. Not only does it take longer to stop a vehicle on a wet road, but there is also a high probability that you will lose control altogether if you make any sudden changes in velocity or direction. If your car begins to skit, don’t panic. Hitting the brakes or turning the wheel suddenly is only going to make the skid worse. Better to take your foot off the gas and make small changes in the steering wheel until you feel the tires regain contact with the road than wind up in a wreck.
- Whenever possible, drive in the middle lane since runoff tends to pool in the outermost lanes.
- Be prepared for sudden gusts of wind. Thunderstorms can pack hurricane-force winds that can push vehicles around on wet roads. The higher the profile of a vehicle, the more windage it possesses. This means semis, campers, buses, and SUVs will be pushed around more easily than pickup trucks and sedans. Any vehicle with a trailer poses the highest threat of being upset by swirling gusty winds. Whenever possible, avoid following trailers when heavy rain and high winds are imminent. If a trailer jackknifes on a slick road, trying to avoid a collision with it is going to prove nearly impossible.
- Another danger from large trucks, buses, and motor homes is the blinding spray thrown off them whenever it rains hard. If you think you’ll have difficulty seeing what’s up ahead of you when the rain is pouring down, think of how much harder it will be to see through a rooster tail thrown off by a big vehicle ahead of you.
- Forewarned is forearmed. That means if heavy weather is forecast or you see ominous dark clouds ahead in the distance, it might be wise to exit the interstate for feeder roads where the speed is 45 instead of 65 or 70 MPH. If you know that rain squalls are in the forecast, it would also behoove you to check your windshield wipers and tire pressure before you take to the road.
Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/