How To Drive Safely During the California Winter
In Southern California, winter driving conditions usually mean rain. The state gets 90% of its annual precipitation from October through April, and half of California’s rainfall occurs from December through February. According to Mercury Insurance, nearly half (46%) of all weather-related car accidents are the result of rainfall. As such, we wanted to share some tips for driving in the rain.
Tip #1 – Slow Down
Vehicles are harder to handle in the rain, and speed can interfere with your tires’ traction. Slow down when the roads are wet and exercise extra caution. Far too many accidents occur because drivers fail to account for weather conditions.
Tip #2 – Beware the First Rain of the Season
When rain follows hot, dry spells, engine oil and grease are released and turn the road into an “automotive Slip ‘N Slide.” You should always be careful when driving in the rain but take additional care during the first rain of the season or any storm that occurs when it has not rained for a while.
Tip #3 – Avoid Standing Water
Puddles may not seem dangerous, but they can be deeper than they look and cover potholes and other hazards on the road. Additionally, driving through a puddle can reduce the effectiveness of your vehicle’s brakes and cause a splash, obscuring other drivers’ visibility. Standing water on the roadway can also cause you to hydroplane and lose control, so avoid driving through it whenever possible.
Sometimes, other vehicles displace standing water on the road and leave tracks. Driving in the tracks of the car in front of you is one strategy to avoid standing water, but make sure you’re not following too closely.
Tip #4 – Increase Your Following Distance
Tailgating is always dangerous, but it is an especially bad idea when there’s water on the road. Give the vehicles ahead of you plenty of space and start braking as soon as you see taillights or notice traffic is slowing down. Rainstorms can mean wet brakes, slick roads, and reduced visibility, so you want to give yourself extra time to stop and avoid slamming on the brakes and causing a skid, spin, or hydroplane.
Tip #5 – Know How to Handle a Hydroplane
If your car begins to hydroplane, take your foot off the gas, hold the wheel straight until your vehicle gains traction, and brake gently if needed. Do not brake hard or turn your steering wheel abruptly, as this could cause a skid or spin. In the event of a skid, keep both hands on the wheel and your foot off the gas, steering into the direction of the skid until you regain control.
Tip #6 – Stay Focused
You need all the control you can get when driving in the rain. This means you should have both hands on the steering wheel at all times – and that you should not use cruise control, which can cause you to accelerate when hydroplaning and interfere with your attentiveness.
Put your phone and all other distractions away when driving, especially in the rain. Cell phone use is illegal in many states, and texting and driving can quickly cause a fatal mistake.
Tip #7 – Maximize Visibility
If you cannot see well, you cannot drive safely. Keep your windshield wipers in good condition and get them checked before California’s rainy season. Turn on your wipers when the roads are wet and use your front and rear defrosters to defog your windows and maximize visibility. If it starts raining so heavily you cannot see clearly, pull over to a safe spot and wait for the storm to pass.
Tip # 8 – Prepare for the Worst
Even if you keep safety in mind during California’s rainy winters, other drivers may not. Keep a list of numbers you may want to call.