Oregon is known for its rain. And it brings with it our beautiful, green forests – but it also brings with it motor vehicle accidents! In fact, more people in Oregon die each year from car accidents that involve rain than in accidents that involve snow! Part of this is because snow is less common than rain but it’s also because people think of rain as more ordinary and do not appropriately adjust their driving for the weather. Just because us Oregonians have to deal with driving in the rain a lot does not mean that we don’t need to remember the basics!
- Make sure your windshield wipers are in good condition at the beginning of the rainy season! Replace them as needed.
- Try to get your tires changed as soon as possible when they start getting threadbare.
- Focus on your driving. Pay attention to the weather conditions and think about whether or not you have adjusted your driving accordingly. Be on the look out for traffic changes, people coming out from between cars, kids playing, etc. It’s harder to stop so you need to be even more alert than usual.
- Slow down! Speed limits are the maximum speed that you can go during IDEAL conditions. Wet, slick roads and decreased visibility are not ideal conditions. Adjust your speed to reflect that.
- Remember that one of the most dangerous times to drive during rain storms is just after they start! All the oil and such on the road combines to make it extra slick.
- Turn off cruise control during rainy conditions. You want to be in control when your car loses control!
- Turn on your headlights during rainy conditions. Your headlights help you to see and be seen!
- Give yourself an extra 1-2 second cushion between you and the car in front of you. Normally, you should have a minimum cushion of 3 seconds to allow yourself (and the cars behind you!) to react to hazards that might happen in front of you but in the rain, you should allow for at least a 4-5 second cushion instead! Not sure how big your cushion is? Find a marker, such as a street signs, count out “one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand . . .” from the time the car in front of you passes the marker until you pass the same marker.
- Know how to handle hydroplaning before you need to! Hydroplaning is when your car begins to slide uncontrollably because the tires have started to get more traction on the layer of water on the road than the road itself. It doesn’t take much for a car to hydroplane – just 1/12 of an inch of water and speeds of 35MPH or higher! Which is one reason why it is so important to slow down! If you do hydroplane, take your foot off the accelerator slowly and steer straight until you regain control of your car.
- If the rain becomes so heavy that it’s like you don’t even windshield wipers – pull over.
- NEVER EVER DRIVE THROUGH FLOODWATERS! Just six inches can stall a car. Just 12 inches can float a car. And just 2 feet can carry a car away – yes, even pickups and SUVs!
There’s usually no need to panic when the rain starts coming down but we all need to remember the dramatic effects that “just a little rain” can have on driving conditions and drive cautiously!