The Washington Guide to Driving in the Rain

September 22, 2017

In Washington, rain rules the roads.

Those of us who live in Washington are no strangers to rain. We get it all – drizzling, spitting, pouring, misting, and everything in between – and it’s important to know how to drive safely when roadways are wet.

Most don’t know that rain is actually the leader in fatal weather-related accidents, passing snow and ice without contest. It’s speculated that the primary reason for this difference is that the perceived threat of snow is much higher than that of rain; most drivers take extra caution or stay off the roads altogether in snowy conditions, but don’t see rain as a significant safety issue. We’ve put together these safety tips to help you through the wet months:

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  1. Be aware. Most adults have been driving so long that it becomes almost automatic. It’s important to stay aware of road conditions and remain mentally alert while driving in the rain (or any time, for that matter). Put distractions away and remember that you are controlling a two-ton machine – and that nature can be unpredictable.
  2. Headlights. Headlights don’t just help you see – they help others see you! In Washington, it’s required to turn them on in less than 1,000 feet of visibility. When the rain is really coming down, even if it’s the middle of the day, make sure to turn on your lights.
  3. Cruise control. It’s wonderful for long trips, but cruise control can be dangerous on wet roads. That’s because if your vehicle starts to hydroplane (losing grip on the road due to a layer of water between your tire and the ground), cruise control will continue trying to accelerate. The last thing you want to do while hydroplaning is to hit your brakes, which will likely cause you to lose control of the vehicle. It’s best to keep cruise control off if it’s raining or if there is standing water on the road.
  4.  Back off. The recommended following distance on dry roads is 2-3 seconds, meaning it should take that long for you to pass a stationary object (like a tree, sign, etc.) after the car in front of you passes it. On wet roads, you should add at least 1-2 seconds to this count.
  5. Slow down. It goes without saying that the speed limit is only intended for ideal driving conditions. A car can hydroplane at as low as 35 mph, and stopping distances can nearly double when roads are wet. Don’t slow to the point of becoming your own hazard for other cars, but drive appropriately for the weather.