7 Safety Tips to Conquer Driving in Rain
It’s no surprise that rainy weather can increase your chance of getting into an accident, but you may be shocked to know just how dangerous it can be. Moderate rain increases your risk of getting in a fatal car accident by 75%, while light rain increases the risk by 27%.1 When the roads are slick, there are steps you can take to drive safely. Here are seven important tips to stay safe while driving in the rain.
1. Make sure your vehicle is ready for rain
Driving safely in the rain starts on a dry day. Take time to check your car’s tire tread, tire pressure, windshield wipers, headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals. These features are critical for keeping your car safe on the road when it’s raining. Specifically, here’s what you should check:
Take a penny and insert it upside down into the tire tread. If Lincoln’s head is covered, your tires are probably fine. But if the top of his head is exposed, you may have worn down your tread. Tires that have low tread are unsafe on the road.2
Check the pressure of your tires at least once a month. It’s fairly simple to use a tire gauge to do so. Most car tires should have 32 psi to 35 psi when they’re cold (meaning, the car hasn’t run in a little while).3 If you’re not sure how much air your tires need, most new cars have a sticker inside the driver’s side door (or check the owner’s manual).
Over time, windshield wipers wear down. That’s why most windshield wiper brands recommend replacing this part every six to 12 months, or more frequently if you notice streaks or the wipers aren’t working.4 To stay safe while driving in the rain, it’s critical that you have good windshield wipers. Without them, your visibility and safety could be severely compromised.
Headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals are designed to improve your car’s visibility to others, especially in the rain. Make sure all of your car’s lights are working properly before you head out on the road. Plus, many states require by law that you use your headlights when it’s raining.2
If you’re about to purchase a used car, it’s especially important to check the features listed above.
2. Take a raincheck on your plans
Let’s start with the obvious: If you can, adjust your travel plans. If you can push off running errands or visiting friends, try to do so. There’s no reason to put yourself at risk if your schedule is flexible and the weather is bad.2
3. Drive slowly
Slow and steady is the name of the game. Wet roads make it more difficult for tires to perform optimally. According to Edmunds, you may even lose about one-third of your tire’s traction.3
If the rain is significant, reduce your speed by at least 10 to 15 mph. For example, if you’re driving on a 65-mph highway, start driving at 50 to 55 mph or slower.4 If the rain gets really heavy and it’s safe to do so, pull over, turn on your hazard lights, and wait until visibility and traction improves. After all, you don’t want to risk your safety and the safety of your passengers. No destination is worth the extra risk.
4. Use the windshield wipers properly
Your windshield wipers have different speed settings. For your safety, use the slowest setting when the rain is light. This way, your wipers won’t get overused and unnecessarily worn down. When it’s pouring, turn the wipers to a higher setting. This will help remove water droplets on the windshield so you can see what’s ahead.
It’s also important to keep your windshield wipers in top condition. This means you need to replace them periodically, or at least every six to twelve months.4
Here are some signs you may need to purchase replacement wipers:4
You hear noises when you turn the wipers on.
This could mean rubber is damaged on the blade.
There’s a vibration or jerking motion.
It’s possible that the wiper isn’t gliding across your windshield evenly.
You see streaks across the windshield.
Usually this means the wiper blade has worn down.
Water isn’t fully removed.
The blade is probably very old and may have even torn.
Windshield wipers are relatively low-cost, depending on the type and brand you purchase. But more importantly, they’re an important safety feature for driving in the rain. It’s worth the cost to buy a replacement if you think your wipers are sub-par.
5. Turn on your headlights
As soon as the rain appears, turn your headlights on. In most states, it’s the law to use your headlights in the rain. Not only do they increase your visibility, but they also help other drivers see you on the road.5 They can also help protect pedestrians and bicyclists who are on the road while it’s raining.
Wondering how to keep your headlights in tip-top shape? We have important safety tips here.
6. Look out for standing water
One of the risks of driving in rain is hydroplaning. This happens when a car’s tires slide across standing water on the road. The tire cannot handle the amount of water it faces. Instead, water is pushed underneath the tire, lifting the tire up from the road. Ultimately, the tire loses traction to the road and a driver can lose control of the car. It can be difficult to steer and break.6
Hydroplaning is usually most dangerous during the first 10 minutes of a light rain. That’s because when rain and the road’s oil residue mix, it can become very slippery.6
To help avoid hydroplaning:6
- Make sure your tires are at a proper pressure (32 to 35 psi).3
- Maintain your tires by regularly rotating and replacing them.
- Drive slowly when it’s raining out.
- Avoid using cruise control, so you can quickly adapt to changes.
- Don’t brake quickly.
- Try not to make very sharp or fast turns.
It’s also helpful to avoid lanes where more water builds up. And be on the lookout for other cars and trucks that can hydroplane. If at all possible, maintain a safe distance from other vehicles on the road.6
7. Avoid distractions
Distracted driving is bad driving, no matter if it’s raining or not. But it’s especially important to stay focused in inclement weather. Staying alert helps you avoid issues in your own car and keep your eyes peeled for other drivers who may be driving slowly, stopped in a breakdown lane or drifting into your lane. Bottom line: When it’s raining, it’s even more important to focus on driving—and only driving.7
To help you stay alert:
- Keep both hands on the wheel.
- Shut off your cellphone, put it on airplane mode or if you are using your phone as your GPS, put it on do-not-disturb mode.
- Lower the volume on your car’s stereo.
- Avoid heated conversations in the car.
- Avoid eating, putting on makeup or doing any other tasks.
Distracted driving is a serious matter. If you want more tips to help you stay focused, read “4 Facts and Statistics About Distracted Driving – Plus Ways to Help You Stay Focused.”
Remember, driving in the rain is a part of life. After all, we can’t predict or control the weather. But there are ways to do it safely. It’s worth taking extra precautions to help keep you and your family protected on the road.
- Even light rain increases your risk of a deadly car crash, Associated Press, 2019.
- 3 Tips for Driving Safely in the Rain, Edmunds, 2015.
- How Do I Find the Correct Tire Pressure for My Car? Cars.com, 2018.
- How Long Do Windshield Wipers Last? AutoZone, 2021.
- 10 Crucial Things To Know Before You Start Driving In The Rain, Driving Tests, 2021.
- Hydroplaning Basics: Why it Occurs and How You Can Avoid it, SafeMotorist.com, 2021.
- 11 Tips For Driving Safety In The Rain, Smart Motorist, 2021.