At best, driving in rain is an unpleasant experience. You are highly vulnerable to splashes from other vehicles and extremely likely to get caught up in slow moving traffic.
At worst, driving in the rain can be extremely hazardous. Heavy rains reduce visibility, the water comes between your tyres and the road, minimising grip and increasing the chances of skidding.
Here are some tips to drive safe when the skies have opened up.
1. Drive Slowly
During rains, the water mixes with the grime and oil on the roads, creating a film between your tyres and the surface. So the contact patch of your tyres is reduced, making it more difficult for you to handle the car. Such a situation, when accompanied with high speed, is recipe for disaster. Driving fast during rains increases the chances of skidding and loss of control on the car. So drive slower than you normally would and maintain double the distance from the car ahead of you, giving you enough time and distance to brake safely.
2. Know How to Handle Aquaplaning
Even with your best efforts, the risk of aquaplaning remains high during rains. If you find your car losing contact with the road, don’t panic (easier said than done, but crucial. You will realize that you are aquaplaning if your steering suddenly feels very light). Don’t jam on the brakes. Lightly press on the accelerator and continue steering the vehicle in the direction you want your car to move. Light acceleration reduces the speed and helps your tyres regain traction with the road.
Handy Hint: Avoid cruise control while driving in the rain. With cruise control on, in the event of aquaplaning, the high consistent speed can make your car take off like a plane. In fact, in some vehicles, the cruise control feature cannot be activated when the windscreen wipers are on.
3. Are your Tyres Well Maintained?
Make sure that your tyres are inflated to the recommended pressure levels. Also ensure that your tyre tread depth is above legal limits.
The recommended pressure for your car tyres is mentioned in the owner’s manual and also on the glove box door and the vehicle door. Don’t be misled by the figure mentioned on the tyres. This refers to the maximum pressure the tyre may be inflated to. The recommended pressure may be different.
In the UK, the legal tread depth for cars is 1.6mm. But it is a good idea to replace tyres when the tread depth has come down to about 3mm, especially if you are gong to be driving in the rains.
Properly maintained tyres can better handle wet roads and are less vulnerable to skidding and aquaplaning.
4. Check Your Lights & Wipers
Make sure your wipers are in top condition, as they are your only ‘tools’ to clear water from the windscreen and ensure visibility. Turn on your headlights whenever you use wipers, so that you are visible to others.
5. Is the Journey Necessary?
In case of heavy downpour, ask yourself the above question.
Remain safe while driving in the rain.