Not-So-Fun Fact: Rain is the Most Dangerous Weather Condition to Drive In
Fire season here in California is always devastating to local wildlife and residents. In fact, the California Department of Insurance reports that losses from the November 2018 wildfires were over $12 billion. 2019 could easily top these losses, as heavy evacuations and late-season fire activity have added to this year’s totals.
Here in California, we always welcome rain – especially during wildfire season. But it is important for drivers to use caution when driving in wet and rainy conditions – particularly when driving in the rain at night. Many California drivers are not experienced with driving in inclement weather, and accidents always spike when bad weather hits.
If you have been injured by another driver in a rainstorm, it is important to protect your legal right to compensation. The experienced auto accident attorneys at Arash Law have helped many California car crash victims access the compensation to which they are entitled. Call (888) 488-1391 as soon as possible to schedule your free consultation. Don’t delay – the sooner you have an attorney fighting for you, the better protected your legal rights will be.
Why It is More Dangerous to Drive in the Rain: How Much Does Rain Impact Road Safety?
According to the United States Department of Transportation, there are many ways in which precipitation can make driving more dangerous. It affects the safety by reducing drivers’ visibility, reducing friction with the roadway surface, and obstructing lanes of traffic. Precipitation also affects traffic flow by reducing the capacity of a roadway (especially in areas of flooding), forcing drivers to reduce their travel speed, delaying travel times, and increasing the overall risk of accident to each road user. All in all, these factors make driving on wet roads much more dangerous.
One of the most dangerous aspects of driving in the rain is the behavior of other motorists. Many drivers here in sunny California are not used to driving in the rain. They may not be prepared to slow down or use their headlights to be sure they are visible to other drivers. They may slow down too much and cause a traffic obstruction. These behaviors can all be dangerous to everyone else on the road. Worse still are the drivers who know what to do, but simply choose not to do it. Many drivers are in a hurry to get through heavy California traffic. The choice to speed in the rain can have fatal consequences.
Slow Down When Driving in the Rain!
Slowing down is the single most important thing a driver can do to stay safe on wet roads. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, driving too fast for conditions is defined as traveling at a speed that is greater than a reasonable standard for safe driving. California, like other states, has integrated this rule into our statues.
Section 22350 of the Vehicle Code prohibits driving at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property. This means that you can get a speeding ticket for driving at the posted speed limit. If rain or wet conditions make the roads unsafe, you have a legal obligation to reduce your speed.
So how slow should you go? The FMCSA recommends that drivers reduce their speed by a third on wet roads and by half on snowy roads. Every situation will be different. What speed is “safe” will depend on how wet the roads are, how much traffic there is, how dark it is outside, and similar considerations. Always err on the side of caution. If other drivers are impatient to get around you, stay in the right lane, and let them pass.
12 Safety Tips for Driving in the Rain
Drivers who fail to do so must compensate injury victims for all the losses they suffer as a result of the accident. Safe driving habits can save lives. They also reduce accident rates, which results in lower insurance premiums. Never forget: Even light rain increases your risk of injury on the roads! For all these reasons, it is important to follow these driving in the rain safety tips:
1. Be especially careful when rain follows hot, dry spells.
Engine oil and grease can build up on roads and highways over time. If it hasn’t rained in a while, the buildup can reduce friction on the roadway and make it more difficult to control your vehicle. The first rain after a dry spell usually washes up many different types of debris. Be especially careful when driving after a long, dry spell.
2. Avoid standing water on roadways.
Puddles can cause drivers to hydroplane and lose control of their vehicles. They also impair your vision and other drivers’ visibility. Moreover, standing water often shields potholes and debris from view, preventing you from responding to these hazards. Puddles can also reduce the effectiveness of your vehicle’s brakes. Avoid puddles whenever you can safely do so.
3. Drive in the tracks of the car in front of you.
This allows the vehicle ahead to displace any standing water that’s on the road.
4. Increase your following distance.
Slick roads, wet brakes, and reduced visibility can lead to collisions. Give other vehicles plenty of room and brake early with reduced force.
5. If your car begins to hydroplane, do not brake or turn the wheel abruptly.
This may cause your vehicle to go into a skid or spin. Take your foot off the gas and keep the wheel straight until your car reclaims traction. Brake gently if needed.
6. Grip the steering wheel with both hands to maximize vehicle control.
Distracted driving is a major public health risk across the country. It is especially important not to be distracted while driving in the rain, as there are more hazards to be aware of and respond to. You will also need greater physical control over your vehicle in order to overcome the reduced friction on the wet roadways. Put everything away and keep both hands on the wheel.
7. Plan for More Time on the Road
When it’s raining – even a little – traffic tends to move slower. Though it may slow you down on your commute to school or work, this is a good thing. Everyone will be safer at lower speeds. Always give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Allow extra travel time so that you are never in a rush when you are driving in the rain.
8. Be More Cautious with Braking
When you’re driving in a downpour, you simply cannot brake the same way you would in ideal weather conditions. The roads are slippery, which means you could slide more if you brake too quickly. There’s also a chance that you could get water in your brakes. This causes them to lose their stopping power. When it’s raining, you should brake with less force. Be sure to keep plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you to avoid any of these situations. A following distance of three seconds is appropriate for sunny conditions. In rain or other inclement weather, you should increase this to four or more seconds as conditions require. This can be measured by timing when the vehicle ahead of you crosses a fixed point. Time how much longer it takes you to cross that same point, and you have your following distance.
9. Use Your Headlights
Even if it’s only lightly sprinkling, your headlights will help you see the road better. Plus, having your headlights on allows other drivers to see you. You should not use high beams under normal rainy conditions. The added light reflects off the water in the air and on the ground, which can actually impair visibility for both you and other drivers. Save your high beams for fog and other conditions of extremely limited visibility.
10. Do Not Use Cruise Control
Using cruise control in the rain can cause many different problems for drivers contending with the rain. If you begin to hydroplane while you have your cruise control set, your car can actually accelerate. This makes it more difficult to pull out of a hydroplane. More importantly, cruise control takes the driver’s feet away from the gas and brake. You should always cover the brake in the rain and be prepared to stop quickly if necessary. Do not rely on car safety technology to help you in this situation.
11. Enter a Curve Slowly
Speed limits posted on curve warning signs are not always intended for rainy conditions. Remember, you have less control of your vehicle on a curve, and this is exacerbated when driving on wet roads. Slow down even further when going into a curve on a wet road. Large trucks and SUVs have a high center of gravity, which creates a higher risk of rolling over. Be even more cautious if you are taking a curve in the rain while driving a truck or SUV.
12. Stay Off the Road If Possible
The best way to avoid a weather-related car accident is to stay at home when there’s a rainstorm. Obviously, this isn’t always possible. School, work, and other obligations will not always wait for the storm to pass. But any optional trips should be delayed until the roads dry up and traffic clears.
Mechanical Problems in Cars That Can Be Caused by Rain
All drivers have a legal obligation to drive with reasonable care. In addition to human error, rain and water can cause mechanical damage to your vehicle. Here are some problems to be aware of when driving in wet conditions:
Window Fog – When it is raining, the windshield and other windows can fog up quickly. This can obscure a driver’s vision – sometimes without warning. Window defoggers can eliminate the problem. Many rear windshield defoggers consist of wires that run across the glass. When the defogger is activated, these wires heat up to clear the fog from the glass. The vast majority of cars sold today have air conditioning. This, too, is an effective system for removing moisture from the air, and it can help defog your windows when driving.
Balding and Improperly Inflated Tires – Over time, tires lose their tread. This process is known as balding. Tires will all wear down over time, although aggressive driving and alignment problems can speed up the process. The tire tread is what allows the tire to grip the road and take away water on a wet road. A vehicle that lacks adequate tire tread has a greater risk of hydroplaning on wet surfaces. Tires should have a tread of at least 1/16 of an inch. A trick to see if the tire in question has enough tread is to stick a Lincoln penny into the tire tread, with Lincoln’s head pressed into the groove. If the top of Lincoln’s head is visible, it means there is not enough tread. Tires that are not properly inflated are also a driving hazard that is magnified in wet road conditions. It is important to check your tires regularly and ensure they can withstand conditions of low friction (such as rain).
Water Buildup on Brakes – After driving through a puddle, brake rotors can become coated with water. This affects their ability to slow the car safely. In order to prevent this from happening, the driver should lightly tap the brakes after each puddle. This removes the excess water reduces the risk of a brake malfunction. Excessive water from puddles can also damage your electrical system, so it is important to avoid driving through puddles whenever you can safely do so.
Windshield Wipers – Windshield wipers are the most important piece of safety equipment for safe driving in the rain. They can dramatically impact a driver’s visibility, thus reducing the risk of an accident. Older wipers tend to become cracked and brittle after long periods of use. In areas with frequent rain, this might be as little as six months to a year. Even when they do not get much use, windshield wiper blades do not last forever. They can become brittle and warped by the sun, rendering them useless when driving in heavy rain. There are several indicators that the wipers need to be replaced, including windshield streaking, windshield smearing, rubber that flakes off when touched, wiper screeching, and frayed wipers. It is important to check your wiper blades before you get stuck in wet driving conditions. The worst time to discover your blades need to be replaced is when they are needed the most.
Experienced, Aggressive California Car Accident Lawyers
If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident, it is important to consult with an experienced car crash lawyer as soon as possible. Anything you say or do can be used against you by the other driver’s insurance company. A car accident attorney can help protect your legal right to compensation.
Our experienced California auto accident lawyers know how to prove the full value of your losses. The law requires a negligent driver to compensate injury victims for their pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and other losses caused by the accident. Our lawyers know how to protect this right and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Photo Credits: · Featured Image - Photo Courtesy of Thomas