Driving in the Rain or Fog

Rainfall poses problems over and above visibility issues. You know to activate your low beam headlights any time you are using your windshield wipers. Again, NO hazards/flashers.

Consider these other factors when driving in the rain, even in a light shower:

  • Remember that streets and roads are most dangerous for the first half hour or so after it starts to rain. Why again? The rain water mixing with oil and other fluids that have accumulated on the road surfaces can form a slick coating. It takes some time before the rain water rinses this coating from the streets. In a similar situation, wait a few seconds after the rain starts before you activate your windshield wipers. If your windshield is not wet enough when you turn on your wipers, you won’t clean the glass. You’ll have streaks of dust and dirt. Don’t let rain completely obstruct your vision but give it time to soak your windshield glass before you activate your wipers.
  • Regardless of the slick coating you just read about, any wet surfaces are slick surfaces. COMPENSATE! You’ll need more time and space to stop gradually and safely on wet roads. How do you get more time and space? Lower your speed appropriately. Increase the length of the cushion you leave between you and a lead vehicle. Remember, you and every other driver near you are operating under less than optimal conditions. Visibility is poor, roads are slick, and not every driver will compensate for this. Make your stops more predictable so drivers behind you know that you are slowing down. Do this when you decelerate to execute a turn as well. Be more careful when you negotiate curves.
  • “What is hydroplaning?” you ask? If you are hydroplaning, your vehicle is moving along a thin surface of water sitting on the roads. Your tires are not gripping the pavement. You are not in control of your vehicle. Despite the commonly accepted “fact,” hydroplaning does not necessarily occur when you are traveling at fifty five miles an hour or more. If there is even a thin coating of water on the road, you can hydroplane at much slower speeds. Avoid jerky turns or hard stops when driving on wet surfaces. Keep your speed to a safe limit based on the driving conditions. And one more note to help you avoid hydroplaning: properly inflated tires with sufficient tread are your first line of defense from losing control of your vehicle – unless, of course, you do not adjust your driving for the rainy conditions. Then, anything can happen.
  • Wet brakes are unreliable brakes. Any time you drive through puddles or deep water, (more on deep water in a bit), your brakes may become temporarily inoperable; the only way to correct that situation is to dry them out by supplying friction to your brake pads. After driving through deep puddles, test your brakes to be sure they are working. Just be aware of drivers behind you. You might also feel your vehicle pulling to one side or the other. It may not even slow when you apply the brakes! If this happens, continue to put pressure on the brake pedal. The brake pads should eventually dry out and you’ll regain full stopping power.
  • One more note about fog and fog banks. Fog can surround you and your vehicle almost instantaneously. It can lift and clear almost as fast. Use the techniques you read about in the previous section. Know that the fog will dissipate, but maintain a laser like focus on your driving until you are in the clear. And don’t just follow the lights of the vehicle ahead of you. You have no way of knowing if that vehicle is traveling safely along the road or has strayed a bit, possibly into oncoming traffic.
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