Tips for Driving After a Rainstorm

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Yeah, yeah, yeah, you know that you need to be super careful in the first hour of rain because of all the oil and other waste on the road that makes the roads slippery danger zones; you too were lectured on all the hazards of driving in heavy rains; and yes, you and your nerdy driver’s ed. school friends also knew that it only takes 1/12 of an inch of rain at 35 mph to start hydroplaning; but have you ever thought of strategies on how to drive after the worst of a rainstorm?

Hydroplaning is a commonly known and very real hazard when it comes to driving both during and after a heavy rain. It is the technical term for what occurs when your tires are getting more traction on the layer of water on the road than on the road itself. When your car begins to slide uncontrollably on even the slightest sheet of water on the road, it is hydroplaning. To give you an idea of how much water it takes for a two-ton car to hydroplane on- 1/12 of an inch is less than the height of a capital letter in most Word documents printed with most (12-point) fonts.

Tips to avoid hydroplaning:

1. Be careful! If you are like me and tend to be relieved that right when you are heading to your car the worst of the downpour seems to be over, don’t relax too much because as long as there is water on the road, the risk of hydroplaning is real. Drive just as cautiously right after it rains as when the water is pouring down.

2. Turn off cruise control. Ironically, on any slick surface such as those caused by rain or snow, cruise control can cause you to lose control. While it helps you to stay at what feels like one steady speed, if you are in cruise control when your car starts to hydroplane, it will cause you to go faster

3. Let your foot off the accelerator. If you feel your car starting to hydroplane, let your foot off of the accelerator and steer straight until you regain control.

Think Geographically:

Think of where you live and the road conditions that could be particular to the weather in your region. For example:

Mudslides

Do you live/work/vacation in areas, or travel on roads, that had parts of mountains taken away to make room for construction? If you do, you know that driving after a heavy rain can be just as treacherous as during one. When the earth is saturated it can take the slightest of tremors – such as a car driving 25 mph on the road below – to make a hill/mountain slide.

Flooding

Do you live/work/vacation near a river, lake or dam? Do you live in a city whose roads can’t always keep up with its weather? Flooding can occur when the amount of rain exceeds a runoff capacity. This can happen when rain causes a river to overflow its banks. It can bethe result rain and tributaries overflowing a lake or pond. It can also happen when a barrier holding a body of water deteriorates or breaks as a result of conditions caused by recent rains. As global weather and settlement patterns have shifted in the U.S., and because many of our cities infrastructures are reaching the end of their lives, streets and freeways in some of our most bustling cities can be shut down during and after heavy rains. Drive with caution and when possible, check local road conditions before you leave.

Flash floods

Some deserts, plains, basins and other low-lying areas are prone to flash floods. The danger of your car and all its passengers being swept away by a flash flood itself are over when the rain stops but the roads you are accustomed to driving on may have spots that are too flooded to cross. If you are unsure of the depth of a recently flooded are, turn around (no matter how long it may take you to get back to your planned route) to avoid the risk of you and your passengers being stuck immobile while surrounded by water.

These are just some tips and ideas to guide you when thinking about driving after a rainstorm. As suggested before, think geographically about the weather and resulting hazards in your particular region- and try to think of those that are less common while always proceeding with caution while driving after a rainstorm.

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