Get a Grip: Safety Tips for Driving in Wet Weather

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Wet pavement contributes to nearly 1.2 million traffic crashes each year. Add in Lynchburg’s winding roads, hills, and mountains, and the driving conditions can get pretty dangerous. Here are two key tips to help keep you and your family stay safe when driving in snow, rain or other wet weather conditions.

Keep Up With Routine Car Maintenance

A vehicle that can handle the rigors of wet weather driving, is crucial to staying safe on the roads.  Scheduling routine car maintenance check ups can be one of the best investments you make for your safety.  Scheduling regular vehicle check ups definitely includes having good quality tires as well

Driving in the rain can be dangerous if you're behind on maintenanceTire tread, firm brakes and streak-free wiper blades are essential when driving in any weather conditions, especially when precipitation (such as rain, sleet, black ice and snow) occurs. 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.

Be sure to replace windshield wiper inserts that won’t leave streaks and can clear the glass in a single swipe. Make sure all headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals are properly functioning so other drivers can see you during downpours. If you notice any issues, make sure you handle them promptly: as the rainfall in Virginia can easily vary from light showers to heavy rainfall.

Proper tire tread depth and inflation of tire pressure are imperative to maintaining good traction on wet roadways. One way to check tread depth is to insert a quarter into the tire groove. If you can see above George Washington’s head while the coin is in the groove,  it may be time to start shopping for new tires.

Check each tire’s pressure, including the spare, at least once a month.   Be sure to frequently check the pressure during the winter weather months, as it is typical for tire pressure to decrease in colder outdoor temperatures.

Stay in Control

While the best way to stay safe in wet weather is to not drive at all, we realize that may be unrealistic in most situations.  If you must travel, safe driving in inclement weather is key, and it’s important to know exactly how to be careful while driving on wet roads.

Headlights On

First of all, don’t forget to turn on your headlights whenever you’re driving in bad weather and/or dark conditions.  In the state of Virginia, it is illegal to drive in the rain without your headlights on! It’s also highly recommended that while using your windshield wipers, your headlights should also be turned on. 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.

Take It Slow

Slowing down during wet weather driving can be critical to reducing a car’s chance of hydroplaning, as the tires might run the risk of rising up on a film of water. With as little as 1/12 inch of water on the roads, tires have to displace approximately one gallon of water per second to keep the tires safely on the road.

Drivers should reduce their speed to correspond to the amount of water on the roadway; even at speeds as low as 35 mph, new tires can still lose some contact with the roadway.

To reduce chances of hydroplaning, drivers should go easy on their brake pad and slow down to avoid hard braking or turning sharply.  Gently using your brakes can reduce any wear and tear and save you money on repairs in the future.  It’s especially important to pay close attention and drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead of you.

Also, it’s imperative that drivers allow ample stopping distance between cars (about the length of 2-3 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 on.

Be Aware

It’s best to avoid using cruise control while in wet weather conditions.   Cruise control works great in dry conditions, but when used in intimate weather, the chance of losing control of your vehicle can increase. To prevent loss of traction, be aware of your surroundings and reduce the car’s speed by lifting off the accelerator, which obviously is something you can’t do with the cruise control on.

Stay Safe and Be Smart!

Even careful drivers can experience slides and skids. If you feel your car start to skid, don’t panic; simply  try and continue to look and steer in the direction in which you want the car to go.  Don’t slam on the brakes – this can cause your car to fishtail or swerve.

Overall you want to be extra cautious at all times, especially while driving 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.  Stay safe and drive carefully!