As Daylight Saving Time comes to an end, citizens around the United States are preparing for a shift from summer to winter. Aside from earlier evenings and less visibility during the commute home, the change of season also brings rainy weather and more dangerous conditions for drivers. According to data from the Federal Highway Administration, between 2002 and 2012, wet pavement and rain accounted for a combined 28% of all vehicle crashes. Especially in areas of the United States that are known for frequent rainfall from late October to March, such as the Pacific Northwest, drivers have to be especially careful during this period. For example, in Clark County, Washington during Halloween this year, 70 reports of hazards were called into the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency prompting an urban flood advisory and nearly 40 traffic accidents were reported in a matter of hours.
As the rainy season kicks into gear, here are a couple of tips to keep you and your passengers safe as you brave the elements:
Be mindful of the first hours of a rainstorm. Although it would seem that it gets more dangerous the longer it rains, in actuality, the first few hours of a storm are some of the most dangerous because accumulated oil and dirt on the road create a slick that’s not yet completely washed away. This being said, technology such as thirsty concrete, which can absorb up to 1000 gallons of water a minute, is being developed to help solve the problem.
Get Your Car Ready. According to the NHTSA, tires with less than 2/32 inches of tread should be replaced. You can easily tell how much tread your tires have by using the penny test. Aside from the tread, tire pressure, windshield wipers, brakes, and lights should all be monitored regularly, especially during rainy seasons.
Slow Down. Not only does slowing down during wet conditions give more time to react and apply the brakes, it more importantly prevents hydroplaning and skidding. Wet conditions can cause a loss of up to 1/3 of your vehicle’s traction and even as little as a ½ inch of water can be enough to cause tires to lose grip with road. Therefore, a rule of thumb is reducing your speed by 1/3 in the event of wet conditions because hydroplaning can happen at speeds as low as 35 miles per hour.
If you do start to hydroplane, release the gas pedal slowly and steer straight until the car retains traction with the road. If you need to apply the brakes, do so lightly as slamming on the brakes could only make the situation worse. Similarly with skidding, don’t slam on the brakes. Instead, continue to steer in the direction of the skid and lightly pump your brakes until regaining control or coming to a stop.
Create Space. We have all heard the rule to leave one car length per each 10 mph you are traveling or staying about 3 seconds behind a car in front of you. However in rainy weather, this number should jump up to about 5-6 second behind another vehicle. Not only do different sized vehicles slow down at different rates, but more space is more time to react. Especially if overuse of the brakes may lead to skidding or less control, the more space there is to slow down, the better.
Even when following all of these tips and feeling comfortable driving in the rain, accidents can still occur. Unsafe conditions coupled with negligent actions like distracted driving can be a potent recipe for a collision. Therefore, if you have been in an accident in a region like the Pacific Northwest, that sees increased rainfall during this time of year, contact a local Vancouver car accident lawyer who can evaluate your claim and recover damages. Whatever you do, make sure to follow the simplest safety technique of all by slowing down when the rain starts to fall.