Extreme weather conditions can happen when you least expect it, so here’s how to be prepared in the event of torrential rains. Ideally, you should try to avoid driving in heavy rains, always check your local forecast before you hit the road and heed any warnings from the National Weather Service, but if you must travel in a downpour, here are some driving tips.
First things first, slow down to gain more control and time to react to slippery roads and limited visibility. When the rain first starts, moisture mixes with the oil on the road and makes everything slippery and dangerous. Heavy rains eventually wash the oil away, but that’s when you have to worry about hydroplaning, where your car loses contact with the road and almost feels as though it’s floating.
If you find yourself hydroplaning, keep calm, take your foot off the gas and calmly steer in a safe direction. Avoid hydroplaning by slowing down, turning off cruise control, and avoiding sudden braking and turns. You’re more likely to hydroplane on non-grooved asphalt roads than ribbed or grooved concrete, particularly if there are tire ruts worn into the asphalt.
Puddles can hide potholes, so try to drive around them. Be mindful of vehicles in adjacent lanes. Avoid flooded roads or moving water, deep water can wreak havoc on your electrical system and engine. A foot of water can float some vehicles and two feet of water can sweep vehicles away, including SUVs and pick-ups.
With heavy rain come dark skies, so turn on your headlights but don’t use your high beams, because the extra light refracting against the droplets can potentially distract you or other drivers. Flip on your defrosters to reduce fog, and set your air conditioner heater on the fresh air setting, instead of re-circulate. Keep your distance from the obscuring spray of trucks or large vehicles.
If it gets too harsh out there, don’t risk it. Find a safe place on higher ground, away from tall isolated trees and poles, in case there’s lightning, and pull over to wait for the rain to pass. So please remember, when it’s raining hard, slow down. If you’re hydroplaning, take your foot off the gas, don’t brake suddenly, avoid moving water, and turn on your defrosters.