Wet pavement contributes to nearly 1.2 million traffic crashes each year. Add in Lynchburg’s winding roads, hills, and mountains and it can get pretty dangerous. Here are just a few tips to help keep you and your family safe when driving in wet weather is inevitable.
Obviously the first thing to protect you would be a vehicle that can handle the rigors of wet weather driving: good tire
tread, firm brakes and streak-free wipers. A review of nearly 12,000 collisions found that more than 37 percent of drivers involved took no action to prevent or avoid the incident.
Replace windshield wiper inserts that leave streaks or don’t clear the glass in a single swipe. Make sure all headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals are properly functioning so other drivers will see you during downpours. If you notice any issues, make sure you handle them promptly: you never know when it’s going to rain around here!
Proper tire tread depth and inflation are imperative to maintaining good traction on wet roadways. Check tread depth with a quarter inserted upside down into the tire groove. If you can see above Washington’s head, start shopping for new tires. Check each tire’s pressure, including the spare, at least once a month… and be sure to check the pressure when the tires are cold.
Unfortunately, the best way to stay safe in wet weather is to not drive at all. However, that’s unrealistic in most situations, so it’s important to be careful while driving on wet roads.
First of all, don’t forget to turn on your headlights whenever you drive in wet weather and/or dark conditions. In Virginia, it’s actually illegal to drive in the rain without your headlights on! Make sure they’re your headlights and not your running lights though. Also, it’s often helpful to skip your high beams because the bright light reflects off of the rain and will make it harder to see instead of easier.
Slowing down during wet weather driving can be critical to reducing a car’s chance of hydroplaning, when the tires rise up on a film of water. With as little as 1/12 inch of water on the road, tires have to displace a gallon of water per second to keep the tires on the road. Drivers should reduce their speed to correspond to the amount of water on the roadway. At speeds as low as 35 mph, new tires can still lose some contact with the roadway.
On that note, skip cruise control. It works great in dry conditions, but when used in wet conditions, the chance of losing control of your vehicle can increase. To prevent loss of traction, the driver may need to reduce the car’s speed by lifting off the accelerator, which obviously you can’t do with the cruise control on!
To reduce chances of hydroplaning, drivers should slow down, avoid hard braking or turning sharply and drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead of you. Also, it’s important for motorists to allow ample stopping distance between cars by increasing the following distance of the vehicle in front of them and beginning to slow down to stop for intersections, turns and other traffic early.
Even careful drivers can experience slides and skids. If you feel your car start to skid, don’t panic and try and continue to look and steer in the direction in which you want the car to go. Don’t slam on the brakes!
Overall you want to be extra cautious in wet weather. Slow down, avoid hard braking or turning sharply and allow ample stopping distance between you and the cars in front of you. Also, do these things one-at-a-time. Brake, then turn, then accelerate. Stay safe!