Driving in rainy weather is something that every driver in Texas will face sooner or later.
We do not always drive in ideal conditions. Heavy rains, thunderstorms, and flood conditions make for difficult driving, and drivers must develop special skills for handling these conditions. The best advice when approaching any of these adverse conditions is:
DO NOT PANIC.
Unlike the 2-or-more-seconds rule used in good road conditions, in any inclement weather situation the driver should increase following distance to at least 4 seconds or more. It takes longer to stop in adverse conditions.
Don`t use cruise control when driving in inclement weather. If a car begins to hydroplane, for example, the car will shoot forward at an erratic speed. Inclement weather situations call for driver control, not automated systems.
Driving in Rain and Thunderstorms
The most common weather-related hazard is driving in the rain, but you can make yourself safer if you know a few things. Most of the danger is caused by the fact that vehicles are harder to control on slippery wet roads than dry ones. Take these precautions:
- Do nothing abruptly. Start, stop, turn and change lanes more slowly than normal.
- Be more meticulous about signaling so other drivers will know your intentions.
- Because your brakes may be less effective, increase your following distance.
- Apply the brakes earlier and with less force than normal to increase the stopping distance ahead of you and let those behind you know you`re slowing down.
Those four precautions on the previous page will take care of most hazards, but here are some other things you should know:If possible, drive in the center lanes or stay in the middle of the road to avoid standing water. Most roads in the USA are `crowned` (slightly higher in the center than on the sides) so water will collect at the edges before it drains away.
Avoid driving through pools of water in the road by driving around it or choosing a different route if at all possible. It could be just water, but it could also be hiding debris or a pothole.
Don`t attempt to cross running water. If the force of the water is greater than the weight of your vehicle, your car could become buoyant and actually float off of the road. After you drive through standing water, tap on your brake pedal lightly to dry off some of the water on your rotors.
Turn on your headlights even when there`s a light sprinkle to help you see the road and other drivers see you. But don`t blast your high beams in rain or fog because the light may be reflected back at you.
Watch out for pedestrians. The rain will create more distractions and deaden sounds, so they`ll be less able to watch out for you.
Never drive through a rain so heavy that you can`t see the road. If it`s raining that hard, pull over and wait it out. If your vehicle stalls in deep water, leave it and move to higher ground if you can do so safely.
Barriers around Low-water Crossings
Across the state there are many spots where the roads are low enough to be easily flooded after a heavy rain. Most of these are marked with barrier gates that are closed when water may cover the road, but many drivers are tempted to drive around them, especially when they don`t see any water on the roadway yet.
But even when there`s no water over the road, you can still be ticketed for ignoring or driving around these barriers.
- For driving around barriers blocking low-water crossings, you can be fined up to $200.
- Move or tamper with a barricade, and you can be fined up to $1,000 and/or jailed for up to two years.
When there`s enough water between your tires and the road for your car to lose traction with the road, you`re hydroplaning.
The first thing to remember is what we said before: Don't panic. Any abrupt actions will only make the situation worse. Don't slam on the brakes or make quick movements with the steering wheel or you'll make the loss of control even worse.
As you feel the car lose contact with the road, calmly but firmly grip the steering wheel in both hands. Aim the car in the direction you want it to go. Calmly make slight adjustments to the steering wheel to maintain that direction.
Then take your foot off of the gas and let the car slow down naturally. Without the gas spinning the wheels, the car will eventually lose forward momentum and slow down, and as it slows the tires will sink through the thin layer of water separating them from the road surface. Your tires will regain traction, and you will regain control of the car.
Never underestimate the dangers of driving in rainy weather, but know also that you'll be better equipped to handle any bad weather situation with the right knowledge and the right attitude.
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