Driving in the fall can see a lot of strange weather here in New England: from early snowfalls to sudden sunlight and dreadful downpours out of the gloom, driving can not only be a chore but also dangerous! Some of the most dangerous conditions are made when a rainy day turns from a drizzle to a deluge and you’re stuck out on the roads.
Here are some tips from The Next Street to help you get through this autumn’s rainfalls.
Driving in a sprinkling of rain isn’t much of a feat: things are just a little wet and gleaming on the roads. If it’s actually raining out, thought, there are some basics that you can apply:
If it’s really raining, and not just misting out, the speed limit is legally reduced by 10 miles per hour here in CT. Generally avoid using cruise control, and keep a sharp lookout for any loss of control in the wheel.
Increase following distance
Normally you’d be following behind someone at 3 seconds. When it’s raining, increase this to a minimum of 4 seconds. You never know when you’re going to hit a wet spot that was deeper than it looked.
The smoother your tires are, the more likely you’ll hydroplane. Don’t drive on “bald” tires, but especially in the rain and snow. Keep an eye on your tire’s tread using the “Penny Trick” (stick a penny upside down in your tire’s tread, and if it comes up to Lincoln’s hairline, you’re good!) or just ensure you’ve got a tread groove of “two thirty seconds of an inch” (as the CT manual says) which translates to .0625 inches.
Hydroplaning, or when your tires skid over water and the tension causes a complete loss of traction, is to be avoided at all costs. You can’t steer, you can’t stop, and most likely you’re going to crash. The best thing you can do for yourself if you are worried about hydroplaning is to maintain your tires and keep your speed under 30 miles per hour.
Hydroplaning rarely occurs at speeds below 30 miles per hour. Think of a skipping stone – if you don’t throw it fast enough at the right angle, you won’t get it to skip across the top of a boy of water. It’s essentially what your tires are doing, losing control after they lose contact with the ground.
If you find yourself skidding due to hydroplaning, DON’T PANIC. Continue to look and steer in the direction you want to go. DON’T SLAM ON YOUR BRAKES: it won’t help and simply further mess with your car’s balance.
Highway and High Winds
Our highway transportation system was designed so cars can travel at speed in the rain. Remember, however, all speed limits (even on the highway!) are reduced by 10 miles per hour when it’s raining hard out.
Rain acts differently when you’re going 45, 55, or 65 miles per hour than when you’re going slower, most notably around big trucks. If you weren’t cautious around tractor-trailers before the rain, you’d do yourself a favor by keeping your distance from them in a rainstorm. The water sprays out behind them, drenching your vehicle and obscuring your vision completely, often worse than your wipers can handle. Follow them out of their spray zone, and keep an eye out if you pass them: they might kick up water and make it nearly impossible to see. The same goes, to a lesser extent, for all vehicles.
Some of the worst driving conditions, especially for new drivers, lie not in the dreaded snowstorms of New England, but darkness mixed with heavy rain. This can reduce visibility to zero and, mixed with a lack of experience, easily lead to catastrophe.
TAKE IT SLOW. Don’t feel rushed when driving, ever, but especially when you cannot easily see the road around you. Don’t bother with your high beams when you’re in heavy rain, as the curtains of water will simply reflect the light back at you in a glare.
Keep your windshield, windows, and headlights clean! You’ll be able to see much better in the rain, and keeping the glass clean will reduce fogging.
Learning how to operate your vehicle safely in all kinds of conditions is an important part of the driver education process. Stay tuned for more driver's ed tips from The Best Driving School in Connecticut. Drive safe out there!
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