Published October 11, 2016
When driving in the rain, you need to exercise greater caution than usual because your reaction time and sight will be decreased. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when maneuvering in hazardous conditions.
Be cautious of "hydroplaning"
During heavy rainfall, your tires might ride on water atop the pavement. This is known as hydroplaning, and the loss of traction it creates will decrease your steering control. Hydroplaning is more likely to occur if you drive at high speeds during a storm or if your tires aren't inflated properly. The New York DMV Driver's Manual recommends buying tires with deep tread to prevent hydroplaning.
Avoid deep water
You should not drive through moving water, especially if you cannot see the ground beneath. You could drift away with no control. Look for alternative paths. Driving through truly deep water can either severely damage your car or pose a serious threat to your well-being.
If you pass through a deep puddle of water, pump your brakes. The water can saturate the brakes, decreasing their ability to function. Brake lightly to dry them out.
You need to slow down because it will take longer to do anything in the rain. You won't be able to stop or turn as quickly. You also won't have the same level of control. The other vehicles on the road won't either. This becomes especially important during curves or expressway ramps.
Increase following distance
When driving in calm, pleasant weather, you should maintain an appropriate following distance that will allow you to respond in time if the car ahead brakes unexpectedly. The following distance needs to be increased in the rain for two reasons: (1) your reaction time will be worse, owing to your hindered vision and the car's decreased efficiency and (2) the likelihood that the automobile ahead will do something unexpected will increase drastically.
Turn on low beam headlights
Since rain makes it more challenging to see through your windshield, you should turn your headlights on. New York state law requires headlights for any weather condition that requires windshield wipers. Daytime running lights are not strong enough. It is important to keep in mind that high headlight beams can cause a glare from the rain. This actually decreases visibility. So keep them on the low beam setting.
Signal your turns well in advance
You need to be courteous to other drivers. There are many reasons a car behind you might not react to your direction in time if you signal with standard timing. They might have fewer chances to see it through the rain, or their car might not respond fast enough. Give them plenty of time.
Pull over if necessary
Sometimes the rain can be so heavy that you simply cannot see outside, or cannot see well enough to operate a motor vehicle. Under these circumstances, pull to the side of the road as far from the traffic as possible. Keep headlights and emergency flashers on to alert other drivers of your presence.