As the rainy season here in Oregon begins in earnest, driving conditions deteriorate. Rain reduces visibility and tire traction. The Oregon Department of Transportation provides the following tips on driving safely in the rain:
- Check your windshield wipers. Have you been meaning to replace those wiper blades? Now is the time. While you’re at it, make sure your defroster is working well.
- Turn on your headlights any time your wipers are on.
- Allow for more travel time. You know traffic is likely to be moving slower when the roads are wet – just plan for it. It’s also possible that your route may be flooded or jammed. Whatever the case, rushing increases your risk of a collision.
- Minimize distractions. This is particularly important when visibility is low. Put your phone away, and turn off or turn down the radio.
- Slow down. Be ready for sudden stops that are more likely in wet weather – disabled cars, debris and less-visible pedestrians.
- Watch out for road slicks. Oil and grease build-up on roads make the first rainfall one of the most dangerous times to drive.
- Avoid big puddles. A pothole may be hiding under the water, and could damage a wheel or knock your suspension out of alignment. If you can't gauge the depth of the water, or if it's covering up the side curb, do your best to avoid it.
- Keep your distance. Remember that all cars and trucks – especially semi-trucks- need additional stopping time in the rain.
- Turn off your cruise control. Driving in water decreases the amount of control you have over your vehicle.
- Watch for hydroplaning conditions. Hydroplaning can occur at speeds as low as 35 mph. Ease off the gas, gently apply the brakes and steer the vehicle straight ahead until you are through the water.
- Total loss of visibility. Pull as far off the pavement as possible, and stop the vehicle. Turn off your lights (so other cars do not think you are still on the roadway), set the emergency brake, and turn on the flashers.
Learn more about safe winter driving here, or visit the Oregon Department of Transportation site for more on driving in the rain and other conditions. Remember that nothing you need to accomplish is worth jeopardizing your safety, and the safety of others.