If you’ve ever been caught behind the wheel in a downpour, you know that rain doesn’t make for ideal driving conditions.
Now that the rainy season’s upon us, it’s a good idea to brush up on your wet weather driving technique. Here are five mistakes that drivers make when caught in a downpour, and what you can do to avoid making the same blunders.
1. Not adjusting your driving to road conditions.
You can’t drive the same way in a rainstorm as you would if it was a clear, sunny day. When the rain starts to fall, you should adjust your driving technique.
Slow down, avoid sharp turns and hard brakes, and leave plenty of room between your car and the one in front of you. In wet driving conditions, you should take the 2 second rule and increase it to 6 seconds – this gives you more time to stop on a slippery road.
If you don’t adapt your driving technique to the wet weather, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to hydroplaning – this occurs when the tires of your vehicle actually rise on top of a film of water. That means your vehicle is getting very little, or no contact at all with the road. When hydroplaning, your traction is significantly reduced – if you’re caught in this situation, don’t make any sudden movements with your vehicle. Simply take your foot off of the gas pedal, and then proceed to steer in the direction that you want to go.
2. Not turning on your headlights.
According to Ontario traffic law, drivers must turn on their headlights anytime when conditions prevent them from seeing clearly a car or person 150 meters away. This means that if you’re not turning on your headlights in the rain, you may in fact be breaking the law!
Make sure that, if you’re caught in a downpour and visibility is low, you turn on your headlights so that you – and those around you – aren’t left in the dark.
Note: Avoid turning on your high beams in rainy weather – these will most likely blind oncoming drivers rather than help them see clearly.
3. Driving towards the side of the road.
What’s wrong with driving toward the left or right side of the road? Most Ontario roads are slightly higher in the middle than on the sides, which is why the sides of the road are the perfect place for rainwater to collect and deep puddles to form. Make sure to stay in the centre of the road, away from run-off and standing water. While it’s not always possible to drive like this – on a narrow one-lane road, for example – most of the time, staying in the centre is your safest bet for staying safe on rainy roads.
4. Driving through large puddles.
It should go without saying that, if there’s a massive puddle on the road in front of you, it’s not a good idea to blindly drive through it.
It’s impossible to tell how deep a puddle is just by looking at it – it may look like it’s only an inch deep, but could very well be much deeper than that. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when you encounter a sizeable pool of water on the road. If you go ahead and drive straight through it, you run the risk of striking a pothole, splashing water up into your vehicle’s electrical system, or even getting swept away into a current of rainwater.
Instead, try to drive around the puddle, or simply turn around and take a different route to get to your destination.
5. Driving straight through a torrential downpour.
If the rain is coming down so hard that your windshield is being pummelled, and you can’t see a foot in front of you, there’s no away around it – you’re going to have to stop your vehicle, pull over, and wait for the downpour to pass.
It’s never a good idea to power through a torrential downpour, no matter the urgency of your next appointment. That meeting or errand can wait until after the rain stops – you owe it to yourself and those around you to stay safe until it does.