To borrow a well-worn phrase, rain in Vancouver is as inevitable as death and taxes. However, Environment Canada reports that in 2018 residents endured the fifth wettest January on record. While winter and early spring driving in the cold of higher elevations can surely test the skill of the most seasoned motorist, American research indicates that more accidents occur in wet conditions than in ice or snow.
Here are a few common-sense suggestions for safe driving in the rain.
Reduce Your Speed
The cardinal rule for wet weather driving? Slow down! It seems obvious, but it is the single most important thing to remember when roads become wet. Rain reduces visibility and, even with good tires and brakes, stopping distances are almost double those on dry pavement. This is especially true during the first few minutes of a shower, as oil deposited on the road by passing vehicles rises to the surface. Water on brakes (especially disc brakes) reduces their effectiveness.
See and Be Seen
Unlike many states in the U.S., no Canadian province yet has a law requiring drivers to turn on their headlamps when using their vehicle’s windshield wipers. But this has always been a basic rule of safe wet weather driving. After all, if visibility is poor enough to require wipers, other drivers are having trouble seeing you as well.
Check the condition of your wiper blades regularly. The rubber can becomes stiff in the cold of winter, resulting in tears and nicks that can cause the blade to lose contact with the windshield glass.
Keep a Safe Following Distance
This one goes hand in hand with reducing speed. While keeping a safe distance from the vehicle ahead is important in all conditions, it becomes critical when roads are wet. Reduced visibility means reaction times are slower, and, as noted above, braking distances are far greater than in dry conditions.
When is a car like a hydrofoil boat? When it “hydroplanes”. Here’s how it happens. At any moment, only about 180 square centimeters – an area a little bigger than that of a slice of bread – of each tire is in contact with the road. When a road is covered in water, at a certain speed those four small patches begin to “surf” on top of it. Your car may suddenly start to drift and not respond to your attempts to steer it straight. The first thing to do? Don’t panic. Slow down (once again) until you feel the car regain traction. If you can do so safely, move to an area of road with less water.
Mind Your Tires
Good tires, with plenty of tread, are essential. A tread depth of 2/32” is the absolute minimum, but consider replacing your tires when the tread depth drops below 5/32”. Here is a link to a step-by-step pictorial guide for how to measure your tread using just a Canadian nickel, courtesy of Canadian Tire.
Improper (too high or too low) tire pressure can also cause handling problems on wet roads. Check yours regularly and keep them inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure. Here is another step-by-step guide from Canadian Tire.
Air Conditioning Isn’t Just For Summer
Have you wondered why your car’s windows fog up on a rainy day? It’s pretty simple. The relative humidity on such a day is 100 per cent the air just can’t hold any more moisture. As air flows into the passenger compartment that moisture condenses on the colder glass. Because auto air conditioning systems dry as well as cool air, the most effective way to clear fogged windows (which you naturally should do before driving off) is to turn on the AC with the airflow directed to the dash vents. Don’t use the defrost setting, as this will usually make the windshield sweat even more in warm weather.
Standing and Flowing Water
Because weather systems usually move quickly across, Canadians are not as accustomed to the type of flooding that regularly accompanies the slower systems common in southern latitudes. As global temperatures rise, however, storms such as those that in 2017 caused severe flooding in several Eastern Provices may become more frequent.
This is a “no exceptions” rule: don’t under any circumstances try to drive through moving or standing water. It could cost you your life. You cannot accurately judge the depth of either moving or standing water, and the typical automobile can be carried off by moving water 30 centimeters deep. Flooded roads are subject to collapse. Even if you survive, driving through water may cause costly damage to your vehicle’s engine and electronics.
Legal Help from Vancouver Car Accident Lawyers
Taking these precautions when driving in stormy weather can go a long way toward keeping you and your passengers safe. The lawyers at Diamond and Diamond have years of experience obtaining compensation for accident victims who have been injured due to the negligence of other drivers. Contact our 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now about your claim. Consultations are free, and we have offices located throughout British Columbia.