March is almost over, and while conventional wisdom has it that April showers bring May flowers, they also bring wet-weather driving conditions. Driving in rain may not be quite as dramatic as driving in snow and ice, but it has it’s own set of hazards, so whether you have an unavoidable trip that coincides with a thunderstorm, or just happen to be out and about when the skies open up, here are some things you can do to make sure that you and your passengers don’t wind up all wet:
Spring Maintenance: The change of seasons is a good time to do some routine maintenance on your car. Since rainy-day driving requires a gentle touch on all the controls in your car (steering, clutch, accelerator, and brakes) you need to make sure all those signals are in good working order. You should also check the head-, tail- , and brake-lights on your car, and make sure there are no dead bulbs. Do the same for your turn signals.
Tread Carefully: Before the rain starts, you should also make a point of checking your tires. Bald tires have less traction on wet roads, and won’t help you avoid hydroplaning, while treads in good condition help divert the water your car is driving across or through.
Don’t Wipe Out: It goes without saying that you should replace your windshield wiper blades at least once a year, but if your car or truck is getting on in years, consider replacing the entire wiper arm. These can bend over time, and that will reduce the downward pressure needed to actually clean the windshield. While we’re on the subject, don’t be afraid to use washer fluid fairly liberally – it doesn’t cost much to replace.When you’re driving in wet weather, make sure you use your wipers – they can’t clear the water from your field of vision if you don’t turn them on. Also, stay well behind large trucks and other big vehicles, so that you don’t have to deal with as much spray and splash.
Light Up the Sky: When it’s raining, even if it’s just a light mist, make sure you have your headlights on, especially if your car doesn’t feature daytime running lights automatically. Turn them on when it’s overcast or foggy as well, because it will keep you safer, not just by helping you see the road, but also by making it easier for other drivers to see you. Remember, however, that in very foggy conditions, if you don’t have fog lights, you may not want to use high beams, because they’ll reflect back at you, making visibility even poorer. Low beams won’t do this as severely.
These four points are the essentials of staying safe in wet weather, but there’s one more thing to consider: heavy rain, with flooding. When driving in very heavy rain, especially if you’re in an area where flash floods are possible, stay in the center of the road as much as possible, because water tends to flow outward, and drive in the tracks of other cars whenever you can. As well, if you come to water so deep that you can’t see the road below it, don’t drive through. Find an alternate route, or pull over until the water drains.
Driving through a rainstorm is hazardous, but by following these advice, you can manage it safely, and save yourself the insurance hassle that comes from having an accident.