Driving in heavy rain conditions can catch us off guard and be quite hazardous. Thankfully, there are several things we can do ahead of time, as well as during a storm, to ensure safe arrival at our destination.
Here are our top ten tips for driving in heavy rain for you! You will find that some of these points overlap, but each is worth taking the time to consider.
1. Be prepared.
You can prepare for whatever road conditions you might face by regularly checking to make sure these key components of your car are in tip-top shape:
- Clean windshield, inside and out
- Properly working windshield wiper blades, front and rear
- Washer fluid filled up
- Headlights and taillights working properly
- Tire treads not worn and at least 3 mm depth
- The gas level at least ¾ full
If your vehicle is fairly new to you, or you are borrowing/renting a vehicle, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with the following:
- AC, heater, and defrost settings
- Car lights switch and how to activate high beam function
- How to turn on/off the windshield wiper blades
- How to turn on the radio and dial a weather station
- The route you will be taking (more about this next)
2. Know the roads.
If you know your route is going to take you through low-lying areas or past ditches prone to flooding, take a different route, even if it will take longer to arrive at your destination. Listen to the radio and consult a reliable weather app on your phone (not while driving). Before you leave you can check online for road conditions along your route and call someone who lives in the area where you are going, to hear their perspective on the conditions. If you find out ahead of time that a road is going to be closed, you will save both time and trouble! It wouldn’t hurt to have a couple of different routes in mind, should the weather shift when you are en route.
3. Fuel up.
Expect the unexpected! Always fill up your fuel tank before you hit the road. Bad weather can cause traffic jams and accidents. You don’t want to get stuck in a dangerous situation with little fuel in your tank!
4. When possible, stay put until after the storm.
We understand the pressure you may be under to pick up your children, make it to an important appointment, or arrive home in order to care for a loved one. But, if you don’t have to be somewhere else, why not just stay put a little longer? If your destination is in a flood-prone area, perhaps you can make alternate plans ahead of time just in case of an emergency: someone else may be able to pick up your children or help your loved one, and most appointments can be rescheduled. There’s no need to endanger yourself unnecessarily.
5. Be aware of other drivers.
When it’s raining, watch your speed and leave plenty of room (at least a four-second gap) between you and the car in front of you. If someone is following closely, allow them to pass you. Also, be alert to the spray that comes off of trucks and speeding vehicles when they pass you. You can help others by being aware of your spray and avoid splashing through big puddles near bikers and pedestrians.
6. Use lights, not brights.
Though we usually depend on an automatic lighting system, it’s a good idea to turn on the headlights manually when using windshield wipers. Using brights isn’t a good idea because they glare off rainfall and wet surfaces and distract other drivers. Use hazard lights if you have to drive below 15 mph.
7. Slow down when driving in rain.
Don’t feel pressured to drive the speed limit. The number on the sign is for maximum speed in good weather, clear road conditions, and ideal visibility. If people behind you don’t like your speed, let them pass. If you can’t see the road, and you can pull off the road safely, it may be better to do so! Just be sure that you are far enough off the main road that other cars won’t accidentally hit your car in the mist.
8. Beware of hydroplaning when driving in heavy rain.
If wet conditions cause you to hydroplane (skim across the surface of the road), cruise control will make it more difficult to control your vehicle once your tires regain traction on the road. If you find your steering suddenly feels light, take your foot off the accelerator and let your speed reduce a bit until you feel in control again. You can gently press on the brake pedal to create friction and heat, which will evaporate any moisture still on your brakes.
If you do hydroplane, keep calm and take your foot off the gas. Resist the urge to brake. Gently turn the steering wheel in the direction you are sliding. This will help you regain control once you slow down and regain traction. Finally, pull over safely or steer in the desired direction, whichever is safest.
9. Avoid standing or flowing water.
A good rule to follow is if you see water covering the markings on the road, it is too deep to drive through that area. A car or van can lose control in as little as three inches of standing water. Even if you could drive through it, you don’t want to risk a larger vehicle driving past you and pushing some of that water underneath your car, causing the engine to stall. Again, if there is any doubt, try a different route. Water is powerful! It’s definitely not worth the risk. Turn around – don’t drown!
10. Keep alert after the storm.
Once the storm has ended, beware of continuing potential dangers:
- Until the roads dry out, there is a chance they will still be slick to drive on. They may not look slick, but they are. You can rest more at ease when the roads are completely dry.
- Be on the lookout for standing water or water running across the road. Never drive through it: you cannot tell how deep it is, and just 3” of water can overtake your vehicle. You don’t want to be stranded, waiting for help in the water, blocking traffic, or worse, being swept away! Play it safe and take a different route.
Driving in heavy rain is risky, but there are ways to make it safer with regular vehicle maintenance, preparation beforehand, and careful driving decisions. As always, if we can be a help to you, please feel free to contact us anytime!