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Get a Grip on Wet Weather Driving

April 13, 2015

As spring arrives and the weather is changing, so do road conditions. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, each year 75 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on wet pavement and 47 percent happen during rainfall. Regardless of your driving experience, odds are greater that you’ll have an accident in wet weather. Here are some tips you’ll want to keep in mind next time you’re caught driving in the rain.

Before you head out. Safety starts before you hit the road. Check to make sure all your headlights, brake lights, tail lights, and turn signals are functioning properly so that other drivers can see you.

Check your tires. Properly inflated tires and adequate tire tread depth is vitally important to driving in wet conditions. Do the test – check your tread depth by inserting a quarter upside down in the tire groove. If you can see Washington’s head, it’s time to start shopping for new tires.

Turn on your wipers. Replace your windshield wipers at least once a year. Poor wipers in bad conditions don’t clear the water from your windshield and can distort your view. Also, don’t be afraid to use the windshield washer fluid either. Typically it’s cheap and the safety benefit is high.

Turn on your lights. Headlights don’t only allow you to see what’s in front of you, it also allows other drivers that you’re there, too. Many states require headlights to be turned on when it’s raining or when visibility is reduced to less than 500 feet.

Avoid Cruise Control. Most of today’s vehicle’s feature cruise control, and although it works well in dry conditions, its use on wet pavement isn’t recommended. Using cruise control in wet conditions increases your chances of losing control because of hydroplaning.

Slow down and leave room. Hydroplaning happens when a vehicle’s tires encounter more water than it can scatter, causing the vehicle to lose traction and “slide” or “drift” across wet surfaces. As you can imagine, it’s very dangerous for the driver and surrounding motorists. Hydroplaning can occur on any wet surface, but is most dangerous within the first 10 minutes of a heavy downpour when the rain and oil on the road’s surface mix. To reduce the chance of hydroplaning, slow down, avoid hard braking and turning sharply. It also helps to drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead of you.

Avoid large puddles, and go around potholes. Driving through large puddles can impair your brakes, cloud your vision and may even cause you to hydroplane. If you can’t avoid the puddle and find yourself hydroplaning, ease your foot off the gas, but don’t break. After winter weather, potholes commonly form on the pavement. Avoid these potholes as it can throw your vehicle’s front-end out of alignment. If you avoid a pothole, slow down, as the damage can be very costly.