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Safe driving in adverse weather conditions requires preparation and training. Regardless of your driving experience, the odds of a collision increase dramatically when rain is present. These conditions can greatly reduce both visibility and traction and require the driver to reduce speed and make other adjustments.
The two factors that are most affected while driving during adverse weather conditions are visibility and traction. A hard rain can make the road, traffic signs and other cars hard to see. Rain also decreases traction. Knowing how to handle poor visibility and traction reduces the potential for collisions.
Even a light rain can cause reduced visibility, both from the rain and water on the road sprayed by other vehicles. When visibility is so limited you can't see the edges of the highway or other vehicles at a safe distance, it's time to pull off at a rest area or exit the highway. If the roadside is your only option, pull off the road as far as you can, preferably past the end of a guardrail. Turn headlights off and emergency flashers on.
Drivers can ensure the windshield is clean inside and out to improve visibility. Windshield wipers should be checked often and replaced if they skip or are worn. The windshield washer fluid reservoir should be checked regularly. Use a fluid designed for cleaning windshields. Do not use plain water; it has little effect on the road grime that ends up on your windshield. Also, clean your headlights and taillights. Dirt and mud can significantly reduce their effectiveness—up to 90 percent in some instances.
One of the greatest dangers associated with rain is hydroplaning. Your tires can actually leave the road even if there is as little as one-twelfth-inch of water on the surface. Your vehicle's grip on the road's surface depends on a small area of contact called the tire's footprint. The amount of water on the road, your speed and the condition of your tires affect the footprint.
Good tire tread and proper inflation allow water to escape from under the tire, while under inflated or worn tires will reduce the tires' ability to channel water out from under the tire, increasing the chances of hydroplaning. Some tires are designed for wet weather and allow more water to escape, keeping the footprint in contact with the road surface.
In wet weather, look and listen for signs of hydroplaning: standing water, raindrops bubbling on the road or a sloshing sound from your tires. Slow down and avoid hard braking or turning sharply. Drive in the tire tracks of the vehicle ahead of you and increase your following distance.
If your car is equipped with antilock brakes, do not let up from the brake pedal if you hear a weird sound or feel the brake pedal pulsate; these are normal. Pumping the brake will reduce its stopping capabilities.
Driving on surfaces with water can be done safely if you remember to think ahead, reduce your speed and compensate for reduced visibility conditions.
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