CJ’s Guide to Safe Wet Weather Driving
A clear view
Keep your windshield and windows clean. It’s important to clean the inside of your windows at least once a week – more often if you smoke. Use your defroster to keep front and rear windshields clear.
On a cold day, move the heat control to “hot” and let the engine warm up before you turn on the defroster/defogger and fan blower. This will prevent moisture from collecting on the inside of the glass. If the glass gets foggy, open a window slightly and turn the defroster fan to a higher speed. Use your air conditioner to reduce humidity.
A bright idea
When you drive on wet streets, mud and dirt splash on your headlights, reducing illumination by up to 90 percent. Stop periodically during a long trip to clean your headlights. If your vehicle is not equipped with daytime running lights, drive with your low-beam headlights on at all times – especially on dark or overcast days. Use low beams and fog lights in fog.
Wet roads mean poor traction. Conditions are most dangerous during the first 10 minutes of a heavy downpour as oil and debris first rise up, then wash away. Knowing how to handle poor traction reduces the potential for hydroplaning, skidding or getting stuck in the mud.
You need steady pulling and moderate power when traction is poor. The best remedy when wheels are stuck in the mud or a soft shoulder is to apply power slowly. Keep the wheels pointed straight ahead so the vehicle can move in a straight line. If you can’t go forward, try backing out, steering in the vehicle’s tracks. Accelerate carefully, giving enough fuel to prevent the engine from stalling and ease along gradually until traction improves.
Steering clear of collisions
You may need to take evasive action in poor weather to avoid a collision. Steering around an obstacle is preferred to braking at speeds above 25 mph because less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. In wet weather, sudden braking often leads to skids.
Recognize water hazards
Your vehicle’s grip on the road depends upon a small area of contact where the tires meet the road surface, called the tire’s footprint. The amount of water on the road, your speed and the condition of your tires affect footprint traction.
When driving in water just one-twelfth of an inch deep, each of your tires has to displace one gallon of water per second. Adequate, full tread allows water to escape from under the tires. Proper inflation also improves traction. Low tire pressure allows the tread to squeeze together, narrowing the tread channels, and reduces the tire’s ability to wipe or channel away water.
Identify the signs of hydroplaning: when enough water builds up that the tire tread grooves can’t handle, the tread blocks lose contact with the road surface creating a loss of control. Properly inflated tires with good tread should be enough to maintain contact as long as speeds and driver input are controlled. To reduce chances of hydroplaning, slow down, avoid hard braking or turning sharply and drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead of you.
Putting on the brakes
Stopping on a slippery surface requires more distance, so increase your following distance. Focus your attention as far ahead as possible – at least 20 to 30 seconds. Keep a safe distance of at least 4-5 seconds of distance behind the vehicle in front of you.
Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) are designed to prevent wheels from locking and to retain steering control during panic braking. Sensors located at wheels detect lock-up. The anti-lock system relieves pressure as needed, allowing all four wheels to continue to turn while maintaining steering control.
You should use the “plant and steer” method with antilock brake systems. Do not remove your foot from the brake or pump the pedal.
If you apply pressure and the wheels lock momentarily, you might feel the brake pedal pulse back against your foot. This is normal. Just hold the brake pedal down and steer. Pumping the pedal actually works against the system.
Summing it up
To maximize your driving safety in wet weather conditions, be aware of the road conditions, reduce speed appropriately, and be prepared for challenging situations. Make sure all of your lights and wipers are working properly. And don’t take your tires for granted. Make sure they have enough tread depth left and keep them properly inflated so they can keep control of your vehicle in your hands.
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