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Rain is the Biggest Driving Hazard

Car in Rain

Photo Credit: Flickr/Matt Preston

Rain is the Biggest Driving Hazard

By Carolyn Hauck on October 13, 2015

According to a 2015 report based on information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rain was found to be the number one cause of car accidents between the years 2009 - 2013. Following closely behind rain was drunk driving and reckless driving, but the fact that rain is the number one cause of accidents might be surprising, and even a little alarming.

Just like driving in snow, driving in rain has its own set of safety considerations. Here are a few tips to keep you safe on the wet road.

Before the rainy season begins

  • Replace old or worn out wipers.

  • Check the tread on your tires. According to auto technician Dave Nova on JustAnswer, for rainy/wet weather conditions, the deeper the tread on the tires, the better. The grooves in the tread are channels for the water to escape from under the tire. If there is not enough room for the water to escape, the tire will ride up on top of the water, which is called hydroplaning. You can check tire tread with the tried-and-true penny method outlined by technician Randall on JustAnswer: Simply insert a penny into your tire's tread groove with Lincoln's head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, your tread depth is less than 2/32 inch and it's time to replace your tires.

Out on the road

  • Use your headlights, even during the day.

  • Be extra cautious during the first thirty minutes of a rainstorm, as the rain brings up oil off the road, making it more slick.

  • Drive slowly through big puddles. If you can’t see the bottom of the road through the water, be extra cautious.

  • Stay near the middle of the road as water collects towards the edges.

  • Be careful not to slam on the brakes if you need to stop quickly. Instead gently pump the brakes just like you would if were driving on snow.

  • Give yourself plenty of room between you and large trucks or buses. The water lifted up off the road by their tires will obstruct your vision, and if you needed to break quickly you could begin to skid.

  • If you do start to skid, here’s technician Randall’s recommendation for how to stay safe:

“We’ve all heard the advice that you should “steer into” the skid. Forget that because it’s incorrect advice. When you’re actually skidding, it’s silly to believe that you’re going to slow down and think to yourself, ‘OK, which way is the car skidding? It feels like I’m sliding to the left, but I’m sort of spinning to the right. So, am I skidding to the left or to the right?’ You’d be confused, right? Thankfully, the answer is simple. Always steer in the direction you want the car to go. When the car starts skidding, teach yourself or your teen to look directly at where they want to go. Do not look at what you want to avoid. Your hands will follow your eyes, so if you stare at the tree on the side of the road, that’s where you’re going to end up.

Whether your rear wheels or your front wheels are skidding, the correct direction to steer is inevitably in the opposite direction that your front end is headed. And remember to steer gently, most skids become worse when the driver severely over-corrects or slams on the brakes.”

That last piece of advice by Randall debunked the common instruction to “steer into the skid.” If you wonder about the validity of other driving techniques, talk to mechanics on JustAnswer to get the real information.