Tips for Driving in Colorado’s Wet Weather
Inspired by Denver’s recent ongoing wet weather pattern, Michael Roberts has written an article for Westword titled “Ten Things Colorado Drivers Should Do But Often Don’t When It’s Raining.” Roberts refers to tips from the American Automobile Association’s (AAA’s) “Get a Grip” Guide, and we share many of them below.
Although many Denver drivers complain that people don’t know how to drive in the snow, Roberts writes, a lot of drivers could benefit by the following suggestions for safe driving in rainy weather. (We have modified the list to 13.)
1. Always wear your seat belt
2. Never use cruise control in wet weather
AAA writes that to prevent loss of traction in wet weather, you may need to reduce your speed by lifting your foot off the accelerator, but this is not possible if you are using cruise control. Staying in full control of the accelerator will help prevent car accidents.
3. Drive slowly to avoid hydroplaning
The Colorado Driver Handbook says, “When roads are wet they may become very slippery when water mixes with oil, grease, and exhaust particles on the roadway.” AAA says to choose a speed consistent with the amount of water on the road. Hydroplaning, the Colorado Driving Handbook (CDH) says, is a “natural phenomenon” in which water forms a very thin yet very strong film on the road, causing your tires to have “absolutely no contact” with the roadway, an “extremely dangerous condition.” To prevent your vehicle from hydroplaning, slow down, drive in the tracks of the vehicle in front of you, and don’t hard-brake or turn sharply, AAA writes. Keep your steering wheel straight, the CDH writes.
At 30 mph or less, properly inflated tires with good tread will maintain contact. Even a brand new tire will lose some footprint contact at speeds as low as 35 mph.
4. Make sure your tires are in good shape
Make sure your tires have decent tread and are properly inflated. As AAA writes:
Traction is the key to good movement, turning and stopping on wet surfaces. Good tire tread allows water to escape from under the tires, preventing loss of traction. Consider changing to tires designed for increased traction on wet surfaces. Make sure tires are properly inflated to the pressure shown in the owner’s manual or on the door frame.
5. Make sure your brakes are good
Have your brakes checked to make sure they are working properly, AAA writes. If they pull to one side, if the pedal is taut, and/or if you hear an unusual grinding or squealing sound, that could mean they need to be repaired, AAA writes.
6. Replace old windshield wipers
If your vehicle’s windshield wipers are streaking, they need to be replaced. All make sure the washer reservoir container is full, AAA writes.
7. Adopt a wet weather driving style
Roberts writes that by deciding before you drive in the rain that you will have a different driving style, you will drive better for the conditions. That means, he writes, being more careful when stopping, starting, changing lanes, and when in standing water.
8. Use your defroster despite the outdoor temperature
Rainy weather can cause the windows to fog up, even when it’s not cold out. The way around this, Roberts writes, is to gap your windows and turn the defroster to the high setting for a few minutes. Use the air conditioner to remove humidity, AAA writes. “It’s important to clean the inside of your windows at least once a week — more often if you smoke,” AAA writes.
9. Use your lights
Make sure your headlights are clean and free from dirt, Roberts writes. Keep your lights on the low beam setting in the rain during the way, he writes, as that makes it easier for other drivers to see your car. If your vehicle has rear fog lights, use them in rain, fog and similar weather conditions, says the Colorado Driver Handbook.
10. Be patient
If the rain is making it hard to see the edges of the road or the vehicles in front of you, exit the highway for a while, Roberts writes.
11. Steer clear
if there is an obstacle on the road, it is safer to steer around it than to apply the brakes at speeds over 25 mph, because less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop, AAA writes, and in wet weather sudden breaking often leads to skids.
12. Keep a safe distance
As Roberts writes, it takes longer to stop on a wet road than a dry one, so it is important to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. Tailgating is never a good idea, unless you want to crash into the vehicle in front of you, Roberts writes, adding:
Oh yeah: Don’t cut in too close on lane changes and drown those of us not driving in SUVs with splashback. And you know that texting while driving in a rainstorm is even dumber than it is on an average day, right? Right?
13. Regain control in a skid
1. Continue to look at your path of travel down the road.
2. Steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
3. Avoid slamming on the brakes. Although hitting the brakes is a typical response, slamming the brakes will only further upset the vehicle’s balance and make it harder to regain control.
4. When the rear wheels stop skidding, continue to steer to avoid a rear-wheel skid in the opposite direction.
Image by Andrew Patra