Staying Safe on Rainy Roads

With the force of El Niño storms already descending on the southland, drivers who’ve grown accustomed to the bone-dry climate of the California’s drought may find themselves in high water when they hit the road. While the wet weather will certainly slow down many Angelenos’ commutes, the dangers of driving in the rain far outweigh the inconvenience. Auto accident rates increase dramatically in rainy conditions because of wet roads, poor visibility and debris and standing water that present dangerous obstacles for drivers.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly 6,000 people are killed and more than 445,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes each year, and the majority of weather-related accidents occur on wet pavement or during rainfall. In California, the California Highway Patrol reported that more than 8,615 people were killed or injured in weather-related crashes during the last extreme rainy season in 2011. To avoid accidents and stay safe on the roads this stormy season, the CHP and the AAA offer the following tips:
Be Prepared:
Make sure your car is ready to weather the next storm before it hits. Check that tires are properly inflated, in good condition and have sufficient tread depth (no less than 4/32 of an inch) and that headlights, taillights and turn signal lights are all working properly. If it’s been more than a year since you replaced your wipers or they do not operate smoothly over a dry windshield, now is the time for new ones. Lastly, ensure that all fluids in your vehicle are replenished — oil, brake fluid, windshield fluid and antifreeze coolant.
Turn on Your Headlights:
Always turn on your headlights when driving in rainy weather. A car without lights on is virtually invisible to other drivers in the rain.
Slow Down and Leave Room:
Most weather-related crashes occur when drivers do not adjust their driving to wet conditions. Start by allowing extra time for your commute when it is raining. To avoid hydroplaning and skidding in wet weather, reduce your speed, avoid sharp turns and hard braking and increase the following distance between your car and the car in front of you. Allow more time to brake and brake more gradually than you would in dry weather. Avoid using cruise control, which can decrease your car’s traction on wet roads, and avoid driving through large puddles or standing water. Drive in the center lane, as water tends to collect in outer lanes, and try to drive in the tracks of the car in front of you.
Hydroplaning and Skidding:
Hydroplaning occurs most often during the first 10 minutes of rain, when oil residue mixes with rain water to create slippery, dangerous conditions. When tires encounter more water than they can scatter, they lose traction and cause the vehicle to skid or slide above the surface of the wet pavement. The risk of hydroplaning increases at speeds above 35 mph. Should you begin to skid or hydroplane, try not to panic. Do not brake, but take your foot off the accelerator and keep the steering wheel in the direction you were driving — if you attempt to steer while hydroplaning you can lose control of the car. Once traction is regained and steering control has returned, maintain a slow speed.

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