Though many parts of the U.S. will begin to see snowfall replace rain as colder weather rolls in, the Southeast is an area that continues to see a substantial amount of rainfall through the winter months. Inclement weather conditions like rain and sleet can make operating a vehicle even more complex, which is already fairly extreme in areas of high traffic like metro-Atlanta. Being aware of your surroundings is the first step to safer driving during inclement weather conditions, but there are other precautions you can take to prevent auto accidents.
Tips to Remember While Driving in Rain or Sleet
Change windshield wipers.
Driving with worn or defective windshield wipers can be very dangerous – and many times is something drivers don’t realize until they’re already behind the wheel and inclement weather hits. Worn blades can leave patches and streaks on the windshield, making it very difficult to see – especially at night. This can be prevented simply by checking your windshield and rear wipers before operating a vehicle. Many local auto parts store employees will check your wiper blades for you, free of charge.
Turn on low beams.
While the law only requires headlights in certain circumstances and at night, safety can be drastically increased by driving with low beams or driving lights on at all times. Especially in rainy or sleety weather, your vehicle becomes more visible to other drivers when headlights are used.
Check your tires.
The treads on a tire are designed to grip the roadways and move water and debris away from the tires. But when tire tread wears down, your vehicle becomes much more likely to slip and spin on wet roadways. You can use the penny test to ensure tire tread is safe for the roadway, or stop by a local tire shop or dealership to have the service department check for you. Tire pressure is also important, as it can cause imbalance or blow outs, which are much more difficult to control during inclement weather. Best practice is to have tires routinely checked for possible punctures and common wear and tear from the roads as well.
Reduce speed, brake cautiously and maintain a safe distance.
It is advised to drive 5-10 mph under the speed limit when roads are wet. It is much easier to hydroplane when driving in the rain, which happens when your tires lose traction. Wet roadways also cause a vehicle’s stopping distance to increase, resulting in the risk of skidding. While driving slower may seem like an obvious safety tip, it can mean the difference in arriving safely or causing an accident.It’s also important to maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and those around you. If a car in front of you happens to brake suddenly, this will give you extra time to respond and reach appropriately.
Avoid cruise control.
A vehicle’s cruise control is meant for long distance highway driving, and only when roads are dry. Vehicles cannot detect water on roadways, so the risk of hydroplaning drastically increases if the driver is not in full control.
Don’t be afraid to pull over.
If the roads are too difficult to navigate and you feel that operating a vehicle creates a high risk, pull the vehicle over to a safe area and wait for the weather to lighten. Taking a few minutes to ensure conditions are safe could very well be the difference between getting to your destination safely or ending up in a serious accident.
Always be alert and cautious.
Distracted driving is a common cause of accidents, and often results in serious injury and fatalities. It’s even more of a risk when driving distracted during inclement weather conditions. Always stay focused and alert on not only your vehicle, but also other vehicles and the surrounding environment.
Whether traveling in a heavy downfall, a light rain or sleet, it’s each driver’s responsibility to make proper adjustments to their driving styles. Following the above tips may seem basic, but refreshing your memory can help keep you and others from being involved in a serious accident.