Kansas spring rain showers and frequent heavy downpours, like we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks, can result in treacherous driving conditions. Nearly 1 million traffic crashes occur each year on wet pavement with more than 350,000 persons injured and nearly 4,500 killed nationwide, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. AAA Kansas reminds drivers to brush up on their wet-weather driving techniques to avoid dangerous situations.
“It’s very easy for drivers to lose control of their vehicles during rainy conditions,” says AAA Kansas spokesman Shawn Steward. “Roadways are the most dangerous during the first 10 minutes of a heavy downpour as existing oil and debris first rise to the road’s surface, then wash away. Knowing how to handle poor traction reduces the potential for hydroplaning, skidding or sliding off the road.”
Safety Starts Before You Drive
Before wet weather hits, it is important to prepare your car. Replace windshield wipers that leave streaks or do not clear the glass in a single swipe. The life of a rubber insert is typically 6-12 months, depending on its exposure to heat, dirt, sunlight, acid rain and ozone. Streaking and chattering are common clues that the rubber needs replacement.
Make sure all headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals are properly functioning so other drivers will see you during downpours. In fact, AAA’s Steward says, it’s Kansas law
to turn on your headlights whenever you need to use your windshield wipers for rain.
Check tire tread depth. Insert a quarter upside down into a tire groove. If you can see above George Washington’s head at any point, start shopping for new tires.
Check tire pressure (including the spare) at least once a month when the tires are cold. Always follow the inflation pressure recommendations in your owner’s manual, or those on the tire information label that is located in the glove box or on the driver’s doorjamb. Do not use the inflation pressure molded into the tire sidewall. Uneven or excessive wear of the tire tread may indicate the need for suspension repair or wheel alignment, both of which will extend the life of your tires.
Avoid Cruise Control
Using cruise control in wet conditions increases the chances of losing control of the vehicle. To prevent loss of traction, the driver may need to reduce the car’s speed by easing off the accelerator, which cannot be accomplished when cruise control is engaged.
When driving in wet-weather conditions, it is important to concentrate on every aspect of driving. Minimizing distractions is critical to driving safely.
Slow Down and Leave Room
Slowing down during wet-weather driving can be critical to reducing a car’s chance of hydroplaning. Drivers should slow down and avoid hard braking or sharp turning, and drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead. With as little as 1/12 inch of water on the road, tires have to displace a gallon of water per second to keep the rubber meeting the road.
Drivers should reduce their speed to correspond to the amount of water on the roadway. At speeds as low as 35 mph, new tires can still lose some contact with the roadway.
Finally, it is important for drivers to allow ample stopping distance between cars by increasing the following distance of the vehicle in front of them and slowing down early for intersections, turns and other traffic.
Responding to a Skid
Even careful drivers can experience hydroplaning or skids. If a driver feels the car begin to skid, it is important to not panic and follow these basic steps:
Continue to look and steer in the direction you want the car to go.
Avoid slamming on the brakes, as this will further upset the vehicle’s balance and make it harder to control.
Turn Around, Don’t Drown
Just a few inches of swift-moving flood water flowing over a roadway can sweep away a vehicle. With many creeks, culverts and rivers across Kansas now at or above flood stage, the danger to drivers is evident.
“Every year, people attempt to drive into water over flowing roads, and many quickly discover it was the wrong decision,” said AAA Kansas’ Steward. “Driving into water without knowing how deep or swift it is flowing can be catastrophic and deadly. Bottom line, ‘turn around, don’t drown.”
Don’t drive “intexticated”
With wet weather impairing vision and creating slick road conditions, it is more important than ever for drivers to put down their cell phones and focus solely on the road when they are behind the wheel. AAA Kansas is highlighting how the dangers of driving distracted can be as impairing and dangerous as drinking and driving through our “Don’t drive intoxicated – Don’t drive intexticated” public awareness campaign. Motorists can find tips for how to avoid driving distractions and sign a pledge against distracted driving at www.aaa.com/dontdrivedistracted