Whenever a little rain falls on the streets and freeways of Los Angeles, the city’s drivers seem to fall apart. Rates of accidents, commute times, and tempers all go through the proverbial roof. But driving in the rain doesn’t have to be stressful or particularly treacherous. Common-sense tips like not being in a hurry to beat the traffic that will eventually ensnare you anyway are all common knowledge, so we pulled from the just7 hive mind to assemble some lesser-known info that will no doubt benefit you in wet conditions.
If you feel uncomfortable driving in the rain and can postpone your trip or commute, wait until the weather improves before driving. There is no reason to put yourself in danger if driving in wet conditions is not necessary.
All right, we’ll start with something that’s still reasonably obvious. Tires are one of the most important parts of any vehicle. Those circular rings of rubber are the only things that connect cars and pavement. As a result, you must drive with tires that are suitable for wet weather conditions. A set of good all-seasons is no doubt the way to go for most drivers, and our friends at TireRack.com—and their handy two-minute Tire Decision Guide—can recommend the perfect setting for whatever you might drive.
just7‘s technical director Frank Markus still advises a bit of caution and a watchful eye. “Every tire will hydroplane,” he says. “It’s a question of speed, water depth, and tread depth. Watch for deep puddles and think about how old your tires are. If they’re pretty old, the puddles don’t have to be very deep or the speed as high to hydroplane.” Eyes on the road, people.
Make sure that your car’s equipment is in working order before encountering rainy weather. Check your headlights, taillights, and windshield wipers to make sure that they will work efficiently when they are needed. Also, check the tread of your vehicle’s tires. Balding tires can severely reduce traction on wet roadways.
Antilock braking systems have gotten very clever over the last several years. According to editor-in-chief Mark Rechtin, drivers should lean on the safety systems during emergency braking systems. “If you slam on the brakes, stay slammed on the brakes,” he says. “Don’t pulse the brake pedal. That’s a holdover from pre-ABS days. ABS is much faster at modulating tire traction than any human.”
ABS systems typically work in conjunction with stability control programs to monitor grip levels and ensure that even urgent stops are dealt with safely. If you’re driving a car without ABS, pulsing the brake pedal to prevent the wheels from locking up is the safest way to come to a stop.
Not only should you adhere to the posted speed limit when driving in wet weather conditions, but you should also drive considerably slower than you normally would. Wet roads are very dangerous. Your vehicle’s reaction time is much slower when it is raining. Reduced speed is imperative in rainy weather.
Although wet roads are their problem, other liquids can ruin your drive. “It’s not just the water you need to watch out for,” features editor Scott Evans says. “All the oil, gas, diesel, antifreeze, ATF, and whatnot that gets dropped or spilled on the road all year floats on the water and can make a slick road slicker.” Markus points out, though, that this is usually an ‘always sunny’ place thing, saying most places get enough rain to prevent that being an issue.
Sunny Southern California didn’t get its nickname for anything. If you’re an Angeleno or live in another climate where it’s dry 90 percent of the year and only occasionally rains, be on the lookout for oils and other slippery fluids that rainwater can bring to the road surface.
Most states require drivers to turn on their vehicles’ lights while driving in rain. Even if it is only misting, turning on your vehicle’s headlights will increase both your visibility and other drivers’ ability to see your car on the road.
The California Vehicle Code (CVC) states that when wipers are in continuous use, or when visibility is less than 1,000 feet, your headlights have to be on. If it’s foggy or raining, you need to have your headlights on. You might not need the extra light to see what’s happening in front of you, but that’s not why you should have your lights on. Instead, having your lights on is mostly for the person behind you. If your taillights are always on, it’s going to make your car a lot easier to see, and that might prevent you from being rear-ended.
Don’t use cruise control in wet weather. The reasoning behind that is computers simply aren’t able to identify water-laden pavement where the car might hydroplane. The car will, as a result of simply not knowing, maintain speed and throttle no matter the conditions. This could result in the car hydroplaning and possibly losing control. While the traction and stability control will react when things go wrong, it’s best not to put yourself in that position, to begin with. So, when you’re driving in the rain, take control of the vehicle yourself.
While this may seem like common sense, some people forget to turn on their windshield wipers in light rain. Most cars’ windshield wiper speed is adjustable to clear moisture from the glass in a light mist or a heavy downpour. There are also several products available that can be sprayed or wiped onto the glass and claim to defer the collection of rainwater.
Keep a greater distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you. Stopping your vehicle will be more difficult when driving in the rain. Maintain a distance of several car lengths between your car and other vehicles.
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