It’s a rainy week here in Austin, so we thought it would be a good idea to post a reminder about some safety tips to follow when driving in the rain and what to do when hydroplaning, wherever you are.

Preparing for the Rain

  • Make sure your wiper blades are still effective. If it’s creating streaks or clearly just not wiping away the water, replace them. If you touch them and they feel brittle, they need to be replaced.
  • Make sure your headlights are clear, bright, and reliable.
  • When possible, do not drive during heavy thunderstorms, since the conditions of rain, lightning, and high winds are very dangerous.
  • Check the tread on your tires. If they are significantly worn down, get them changed.
  • You can use rain repellent product on side windows and mirrors to more easily clear the raindrops when driving through rain.

Safety Tips

  • Slow down!
  • Stay calm.
  • Turn on your headlights.
  • Keep both hands on the steering wheel.
  • Try to drive in the middle lane or the middle of the road. Water usually pools around the edges of the roads.
  • Stay far behind the car ahead of you—at least 5 seconds of distance.
  • Watch out for large trucks or busses. They’ll splash you with their large tires, limiting your field of vision.
  • Avoid using brakes. You should be travelling slowly already, so just take your foot off the accelerator to slow down. If you must, put only mild pressure on the brakes.
  • Keep in mind that the water will saturate your brakes, making them less effective. Even after the rain, it will take a while for the heat to dry out your brakes. Don’t speed up right after it rains and prepare for longer braking distances.
  • Do not use cruise control.
  • Do not drive off of the road. Puddle depths are hard to judge from the surface.
  • If the water is moving, and you can’t see the road under it, do not proceed. Moving water is stronger than you might expect, and just a few inches can easily sweep your car away.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye on the landscape, trees, buildings, fences around you and in the distance. If they start appearing unnaturally low, slow down at once, since this is a sign that there is a flood.
  • If the windshield is fogging up, turn on the defroster.
  • Do not turn on your flashers unless you are not moving.
  • If it is impossible to see in the blinding rain, pull over.

Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning occurs when the buildup of water in front of your tires happens faster than the weight of your vehicle can push it away. The pressure difference causes the water to slip under your car, raising your vehicle off the ground, typically just by an inch or less. You are more likely to hydroplane if you are travelling at high speeds or if your tire tread is worn out.

  • When it happens, it will feel like you’re skidding.
  • Do not brake suddenly.
  • Hold steadily onto the wheel; do not turn it suddenly.
  • Take your foot off the gas.
  • Turn your steering wheel toward the direction you want to go (be careful not to over turn).
  • You will be able to feel the road under your wheels again as you slow down.
  • As you regain control, straighten out your wheels and brake lightly.