Tips for Driving in the Rain

Category: Driving. Written by Grant Y 

It’s that time of year again.

Stores are stocking up on candy, your co-workers are talking about costumes and your kids are screaming “Boo!” every chance they get.

No, we’re not talking Halloween – we’re talking back to Seattle’s wet driving season.Those sunny weekends kayaking on Lake Washington and hiking on Mt. Si have given way to fleece Northface jackets and hiking boots as the sun retreats for the next six months.

With the rain, comes colder weather, shorter days and a slew of bad driving as Seattle drivers re-learn slick road handling skills. In case you need to sharpen your own own steering-wheel fu, here is a list of good practices to abide by while driving in the rain.

Slow down and maintain a good buffer to the car in front

Less speed equates to less braking distance. In the rain, your vehicle braking distance can increase over 50% in distance vs dry pavement. It’s important to maintain a bigger buffer between your car and the car in front of you. In a panic stop (full on braking), a good buffer zone will give you both enough time to react and hopefully stop. This author knew a friend who was too confident in their new ABS brakes and realized too late (and an insurance claim later) that even modern technology was no match for mother nature.

Turn on your lights so other drivers can see you

Most modern autos come equipped with factory daytime running lights. Research has shown that even in ideal driving conditions, turning on your lights is a significant way to prevent accidents. Drivers changing lanes in front of you are more apt to notice your lights, especially at night or in the rain, where visibility or mirrors are impeded by water. Even if the weather is cloudy or just sprinking and you can see just fine in front and behind of you, a driver up front may have a foggy rear window or side mirrors that literally blind them to your presence. Turn on those lights and you might just avoid that next fender bender.

Don’t over-correct when hydroplaning

Hydroplaning usually occurs when travelling at high speeds, which means that this author has probably far more hydroplaning experience than he should have. This author’s close calls is your gain however, as I can relate that hydroplaning isn’t always the ticking timb bomb it is made out to be. During a hydroplane, depending on the severity, you will lose steering ability temporarily and experience a fishtail effect. Adjust your steering wheel ever so slightly toward the direction of your skid and ease up on the gas. Do not correct you would in a full blown snow skid.

A hydroplane lasts barely a second, which means you will regain traction quickly. Having your tires pointed in the same general direction as before the skid will ensure you keep travelling along. Hydroplaning next to an embankment, barrier, cliff or turn is when things get dangerous, as the room for error is much smaller. This is why it’s important to slow down in the rain, especially at highway on-ramps, off-ramps and bridges where these situations occur and where rain can pool.

Replace those cracked windshield wipers

Nothing is worse than being in a downpour on the freeway with a pair of cruddy windshield wipers. With the low visibility, your reaction time is decreased, which means your ability to stop is also decreased by a quarter. With the average time to react being 2 seconds, a decrease in even half a second could mean the difference between a close call and new premium.

A set of teflon wipers will cost $26 from any auto store and can be installed in minutes by yourself. Most of the express lube places as well as your mechanic offer this service as well, but generally install the cheapest brand available with a higher mark-up. We’ll cover in a future article how to change your wipers.

Have ABS and Traction Control

This last bit is unfortunately a bit unrealistic, because either you have these installed on your car or you don’t. If you do, you will know that technology is working for you in the event of a panic stop or a skid, as the technology will improve (not prevent) your chances of avoiding an accident.

If you drive an older model car or have a current model without ABS, you should seriously consider an investment in a car driving clinic for threshhold braking or practice in an empty parking lot sometime. Threshhold braking is a method of braking that maximizes your tires ability to stop, much like ABS. Without threshold braking skills, your tire contact points with the road will overheat and liquify if you jam your brakes, which leads to skidding and sliding. Next time you drive on 520, I-90 or I-5, look at the skid marks on the road and you’ll identify the non-ABS brakes as the skid marks that have wobbly slides.

Traction control is essentially auto AI that determines when a tire is skidding and when it has traction. TC will kick in when it feels your car is skidding or sliding and independently adjust your wheel rotational speed or alignment to try to correct your path. Most of the time, this means turning your vehicle out (most slides are caused by oversteering). TC is good because it turns on immediately when your brain is immediately turning off and going into panic mode, so it addresses both physics and human psychology at once.

Keep these tips in mind next time you’re on the road and hopefully you’ll avoid any scary surprises of the bad kind this October season!

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2 Responses to “Tips for Driving in the Rain”

  1. autobody on October 9th, 2014 10:46 am

    I like what you guys are up too. This type of clever work
    and reporting! Keep up the excellent works guys I’ve you guys to my

  2. Nano on November 30th, 2015 6:01 pm

    82 I disagree with your staetment. I put on 20k miles on my motorcycle a year. I have been a hard rider for the past 28 years. Are you saying I am not a real motorcyclist?I have ridden through many rain storms. I rode in a bit of drizzle last Sunday.Because of my experience, I only ride in the rain when I have to. Let’s face it, on a two wheeled motorcycle, it is not as safe to be on a motorcycle in the rain, as it is to be in the car. If you don’t agree with this than you are not being honest with yourself.I have seen and represented too many bikers and motorcyclist who have been taken out in the rain. One biker during this past winter crashed in the rain storm and was decapitated by the truck who ran over him when he lost control on a rain soaked slippery surface on a curve in a tunnel in Pasadena.I understand the balls to the wall machismo in the biker world, especially with you BMW riders who think that your equipment is more equipped to ride in the rain and other such conditions. Well if you hit a rain soaked oil patch you may sing a different tune.If it is raining out, use your car. If you are on the road and it starts raining, be careful and slow down, if your gut tells you that it is not safe, get off and wait it out!Norm

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