Ideally, we’d all like to be fair-weather drivers – cruising down the highway with the windows down, sun roof open, basking in the sun and fresh air. But while the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain, a heck of a lot of it falls on the highways here in the United States. For most of us, there are going to be those days of commuting through everything from a drizzle to a heavy downpour.
Surfing Down the Roadway
Rain affects the road, your vehicle and your vision. When it starts to rain, roads are most slippery during the first half hour. That’s because oil deposits left from other vehicles haven’t been washed away yet. When rain mixes with oil deposits it creates extremely slippery areas of roadway that are often hard to detect from the driver’s seat. These oil deposits can occur almost anywhere but are very common at intersections, dropped from vehicles waiting for the light to change.
Have you ever felt the rear of your vehicle sliding from side to side — or maybe your steering felt a little too easy during a rain storm? If you have, chances are you were hydroplaning. Hydroplaning occurs when water builds up under your tires faster than the weight of your car can push it away. Your vehicle then loses contact with the road surface and actually rises on top of a thin layer of water that has the potential to slide you out of your lane. This usually occurs at speeds over 40 mph, on extremely smooth road surfaces, or on roadways where tires have created ruts that are too shallow to see in the dry weather, but look like long puddles when it rains.
If you find yourself hydroplaning do not brake or turn suddenly – these maneuvers are sure to throw you into a slide and cause a vehicle collision. Ease off the gas and steer straight ahead until your steering returns to normal.
Rain can severely impair visibility, especially at night. Remember that the front windshield is your window to the world, so keep it clean and clear at all times. The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends that drivers clean their windshields regularly – both inside and out. Smokers should take extra care cleaning the inside of their windshield.
Also make sure you have plenty of rubber on your wiper blades. If they streak or smear replace them immediately. Windshield treatments such as Aquapel™ can be life savers. These products cause rain drops to bead up and fly off your windshield on contact which dramatically improves visibility.
Besides being able to see, you’ll also want to be seen. AAA recommends regularly checking your headlights, tail lights, brake lights and turn signals to make sure they are functioning properly. In many states you must turn on your headlights when it starts to rain or if visibility is reduced to 500 feet.