Spring showers are wonderful for May flowers, but not so great for roadways. Seventy-three percent of weather-related crashes in the United States are due to wet pavement, making it the most dangerous weather-related road condition. During snow storms, many people slow down and drive more cautiously than they normally do, but the same is generally not true for rainstorms, as most drivers continue to drive at the speed limit, treating the roads as if they were still dry.

Rain and roadways are a dangerous combination

Driving in the rain is dangerous and should be treated as such. When roads are wet, be sure to slow down, turn off cruise control, and pay careful attention. Rainstorms are a terrible time to be driving while distracted. Auto accidents from rain can be caused by slick roadways, limited visibility, or hydroplaning, and each is equally dangerous.

Slick roadways

Water will make any surface slick, but roadways become especially slick due to the added factor of oil buildup. Conditions for slick roads are made worse during the initial downpour and in regions that have little rainfall. The best method to prevent sliding on slick roadways is to slow down. Posted speed limits represent the speed you should be traveling in ideal conditions, so every driver should drive under the speed limit when it rains.

It’s also important during rainstorms to give other drivers extra space. Follow behind vehicles at a greater distance, giving yourself a safe distance to react if something should happen to you or the other vehicle.

Limited visibility

A rainstorm will always cause limited visibility. Heavy downpours, fog, and a darkened sky can make it hard to see, especially while moving at high speeds. All states have laws that require headlights to remain on in times of limited visibility. Keeping headlights on will help you see better in front of you and will also help other drivers see your vehicle.

Watch semi-trucks and vehicles pulling trailers closely. These types of vehicles have limited mirror visibility in good weather, but especially poor visibility in inclement weather. Be sure to stay out of their blind spot and create an extra safe buffer around them when passing.

Avoid pulling off on the side of the road during times of limited visibility. Many drivers will follow the tail lights of the vehicle in front of them, since that’s all they can see. Pulling off the side of a roadway to stop is dangerous, because trailing vehicles may follow you and rear end your vehicle. If you must make an emergency stop, drive slowly with hazard lights blinking until you reach a safe exit.

Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning occurs when your tires lose contact with the road and your tires “float” on the water. Tires no longer have traction with the road, and the vehicle can become uncontrollable. You may have felt this sensation driving through a puddle and feeling a slack in your steering wheel. This is a good indication you are hydroplaning, and it’s a good idea to learn proper reactions before it occurs.

The first reaction to have when you realize your vehicle is hydroplaning is to ease your foot off the gas pedal. It may be tempting to slow the vehicle by heavily applying the brake, but don’t do it. If your vehicle does not recover when you simply let off the gas pedal, gently apply the brake. If the vehicle is an older model, it may not have anti-lock brakes, in which case you should use slow, steady pumps on the brake instead of a firm application. As you are reacting with the foot pedals, be sure to firmly hold the steering wheel while gently keeping the vehicle moving straight.

Always have healthy tires on your vehicle

The need for good tires on your vehicle cannot be overstated. Having tires with deep tread can prevent your car from slipping on slick roads and help prevent hydroplaning. The tread helps disperse water away from the tires, giving the vehicle better traction with the roadway.

To keep your tires in safe condition, make sure they are rotated and balanced regularly. This will ensure your tires are wearing evenly and will also give your mechanic a chance to tell you when your tires need to be replaced before they become dangerous. You can also easily check the tread on all four tires at home. Insert a penny into each tire’s tread, with Lincoln’s head upside-down and facing outward. If the top of his head is covered by your tread, your tires are still healthy. If you can see Lincoln’s entire head, it is time to get new tires. Be sure to test all of your tires as well as multiple points around each tire.

What to do if you are in an accident

Being involved in an auto accident in the rain is unfortunately very common. As with other safety measures, it’s best to understand how to handle the situation before it occurs to ensure that it’s handled properly.

How to react during an accident depends on where the accident has occurred and the severity of the incident. If possible, it’s best to move the vehicles out of the roadway, away from passing traffic. If it is raining and there is limited visibility, it is best to move the vehicles to the nearest exit, with hazard lights flashing. When you are safely away from moving traffic, you can exchange information and then call a tow truck.

If the incident is severe enough that it is impossible to move the vehicles, the amount of traffic will determine whether you should exit your vehicle. On a rural road without traffic, exit your vehicle and move at least 30 feet from the roadway to call authorities. Freeway accidents are more dangerous, because exiting the vehicle can put you into the path of oncoming traffic. Remain inside the vehicle until traffic has slowed enough and you can safely exit the roadway.

The best thing to do after an accident in inclement weather is to call the police. They can respond quickly and will have flares available to control traffic. You will then be able to safely call a tow truck for assistance.