For most San Diegans, driving in the rain is an occasional annoyance. For others, being so used to dry, sunny conditions means that even a minor rain shower can cause major panic—and major accidents as a result. In fact, according to the US Department of Transportation, wet pavement causes an average of 950,000 automobile crashes each year, resulting in approximately 4,700 deaths and 384,000 injuries.
While most of those accidents happen outside of San Diego, it’s still a good idea to know how to drive safely in the rain. Here are some tips to keep you safe through this unusually wet winter or anywhere you travel through wet road conditions:
Tip #1: Regularly replace windshield wiper blades for San Diego rain
For maximum visibility, windshield wipers need to clear the glass in a single swipe. But old, cracked, and otherwise damaged blades will leave streaks, even when on the fastest speed mode. Poor visibility is one of the most common contributors to accidents, so get fresh blades installed long before you think you’ll need them.
Tip #2: Regularly check tire tread depth when it is raining
Another way to be prepared for a surprise downpour—or weeks of downpours, like this winter—is to make sure your tires are in good condition. Deeper tread means better traction in wet conditions, and low tread can result in skidding and accidents. An easy way to check your tires for proper tread depth is to insert a quarter (George Washington facing out but upside-down) into the tread groove. If there is any space between the top of the tread and the top of Washington’s hair, you need to replace your tires.
Tip #3: Keep tires properly inflated for Escondido rain
In addition to checking your tires’ tread, make sure they are properly inflated at all times because inflation is crucial to maintaining safe traction on wet roads. Your car’s manual will provide info on the proper inflation level, so purchase an easy-to-use tire pressure gauge and check each tire at least once a month when it’s cold out—that’s when you’ll get the most accurate results.
Tip #4: Turn on your headlights to drive safely in the rain
If you’ve ever driven through a downpour in the middle of the day, you know that daylight does not guarantee visibility. Rain from above combined with water splashing back up from the road can result in your car disappearing from view, even at short distances, so turning on your headlights when you drive in the rain will ensure other drivers can see you from the front and behind.
Bonus tip: Invest in High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights, which give you even better visibility at longer distances and three to five times the brightness of traditional headlights.
Tip #5: Keep your distance from the car ahead of you
Slick roads can complicate reactions when driving, especially sudden reactions like braking when the car in front of you slams on their own. In order to avoid fender-benders, it’s best to stay 3-4 seconds behind the car in front of you in ideal road conditions, and about 5 seconds behind when it’s raining. To calculate how many seconds behind you are, watch as the car in front of you passes a fixed marker, like a street light. Then count how many seconds it takes you to reach the same marker. Maintaining a safe distance will allow you to brake in time.
Tip #6: Slow down when driving in the rain
This tip should be obvious, but many people don’t know that posted speed limits are designed for ideal road and weather conditions. If you drive at the normal speed limit during rainy conditions, it increases your chances of skidding or hydroplaning, which is when your tires can’t get traction and slide uncontrollably on the layer of water on the road. To prevent hydroplaning, drive at slower speeds, avoid hard braking, and drive in the tracks left behind the car in front of you, where most of the water is already displaced.
Tip #7: Respond properly to a skid in the rain
In the event your car starts to skid on a wet road, the first thing you have to remember is not to panic. Panicking means slamming on the brakes, which is the last thing you want to do in a skid. Braking hard will upset the vehicle’s balance and make it nearly impossible to control. Instead, continue to look and steer in the direction you want to go—your car will regain traction soon.
Tip #8: Avoid cruise control in the rain
Cruise control can be great for long distance driving—in dry conditions. In wet conditions, cruise control increases your chances of losing control of your car. Sometimes you’ll need to take your foot off the accelerator to prevent a loss of traction, but a quick reaction like that isn’t possible when cruise control is engaged. Plus, cruise control tends to put drivers in an “autopilot” state of mind, but you need to be as alert and aware as possible when driving in the rain.
Safety comes first at Audiosport Escondido
At Audiosport in Escondido, we’re experts in vehicle customization, including car audio and video, navigation, window tinting, wheels and rims, and more. But safety is always our primary concern, which is why we offer the top brands in HID headlights to give you the best visibility possible in rainy weather, as well as the most reliable tire brands to keep you in control of your car in all conditions. If you need new tires or a headlight upgrade, let our professional experts on staff help you get prepared for the next San Diego rainstorm to come along.