MAKING MOTORING FUN: Driving in the rain

By Gus Lagman

AAP President

Driving during rainy days, and especially rainy nights, is a bit challenging for us motorists. It would be much safer if we were to take some extra precautions. I’ve listed down some tips that many of us already know, but which are still worth the reminder. I am addressing in particular new and young drivers who still lack experience in driving in a less than ideal environment.

Here’s my list:

1. Reduce your speed. Because the road surface is wet, it will take a longer distance to stop the vehicle. This comes into play in emergency situations, which, by the way, motorists should at all times be prepared for. Visibility also suffers depending on how heavy the rain is. It is therefore important to drive at a speed that will allow you to stop the car within that distance of visibility. So, if you would normally take a road at 80 kph, go down to 60 when it’s raining.

2. Keep a longer distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Precisely for the reason discussed in the preceding paragraph.

3. Turn on your headlamps even if it is daytime. It is not just because you’ll see the road in front of you more clearly; it is because other vehicles will more immediately see you. Remember: visibility suffers when it’s raining.

One important point, however: Rain is not a reason for turning on your hazard lights. You should not turn them on simply because of rain. Hazard lights are precisely that: you turn them on only when your vehicle is a road hazard. For instance, when you’re parked at the side of the road or limping slowly along the road because of an engine problem or a flat tire.

4. Make sure your tires are not worn out. Bald tires will skid more readily. Since there are no more tire treads through which the rain water can escape, a film of water will stay between the tires and the road surface, thus making the road slippery and dangerous. This can result in “aquaplaning”.

5. Make sure your wipers are working properly which means that they clear the windshield as they slide across the surface. Defective wipers leave the windshield opaque due to the droplets of water that remain on the glass. Again, visibility will suffer.

There’s a little trick that I learned when I was a new driver: if your wipers don’t work, wipe or rub cigarette tobacco on the wet windshield – that will neutralize the opaqueness of the windshield.

6. Sometimes, a slight drizzle can be more dangerous than normal rain. A slight drizzle will wet the dust on the road surface, making it muddy and therefore slippery. Your tires will have better traction after the rain has already washed out the dust toward the roadside.

7. Be extra careful when crossing intersections. Driver vision is distracted by falling rain and drivers may not clearly see approaching vehicles coming from the sides.

8. Be more aware of the other vehicles around you. Again, rain distracts driver vision – both forward and side visions. It will become more difficult to notice how the other vehicles around you are behaving.

9. Always carry an umbrella (or raincoat) in your car. It’s almost an afterthought, yet it’s important. You get a flat tire and it’s raining, so you just sit inside your car, not able to do anything. Or, you’re almost late for an appointment because it took you so long to find a parking slot. Maybe all you need to do is walk over to the building where your meeting will be held, but you can’t because it’s raining hard. Then you curse yourself for having left your umbrella at home.

These are just some tips to remember when driving in the rain. It won’t hurt to glance at the list before leaving your garage. It can save you some frustrations and even precious minutes when you’re trying to rush to a meeting.