Rain calls for more space, time on the road
By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, October 28 2016
There are a few simple things every driver can do to reduce the chance of a rainy-day mishap.
It is best to drive in the tire tracks of the vehicle ahead.
When there are no other vehicles to follow, drivers should stay out of the ruts and rather take a slight offset lane position in order to ride the crown of the highway lanes.
This will reduce the chance of hydroplaning, which is when the tires ride on a very thin film of water and lose contact with the road surface.
Most drivers who get caught in this situation will brake hard out of a sense of surprise at the obvious loss of traction.
This is a mistake.
The best way to respond to hydroplaning is to ease off the accelerator and let the reduced speed result in a re-contact between tires and road.
Tires are the only part of a vehicle to make contact with the road surface.
They are the most important equipment on any vehicle.
Rain- or winter-rated tires are the best choice in relative driving conditions.
All-season tires are sometimes recommended, but have a tendency to be average performers in most conditions.
More recently, there are all-season tires that have proven to be very effective in rainy weather.
Tire technology is ever-changing and it is best to ask a tire shop for advice about the best choice of tires considering the type of vehicle and driving territory.
Drivers should avoid pooled water.
Whenever a driver is surprised by standing water, it is a good idea to burn the brakes and clear any liquid that might delay efficient braking action.
Keep the left foot on the brake and accelerate briefly and gently to get the braking action back to normal.
This is not as important with disc brakes, but is certainly a necessity for those older vehicles with drum brakes.
Drivers should also do a brake-lag action in hybrid vehicles, with brake generated energy technology, at the beginning of a journey in rainy conditions.
Many professional drivers wear sunglasses when driving in heavy rain.
This allows them to see more clearly in rainy conditions.
The first few minutes of rainfall are the most dangerous, particularly in geographical areas where it has not rained for quite some time.
The oil and grease accumulation on the road mixes with the rain and causes the road surface to be very slippery.
Stopping in the rain takes a lot more time and distance. For this reason, it is best to avoid crashes by having escape spaces around your vehicle.
Choose a lane on a multi-lane road that will allow for lateral escapes.
Expand the following distance from the normal two-second rule to double that time frame.
Always remember that the most common crash is the rear-end collision.
Use the four-way flashers to discourage those following too closely behind your vehicle.
Change lanes if possible, to avoid this tailgater situation.
As mentioned in a previous column, the slapping of the tires on pavement and the flapping of the wipers and the rooster tale spray will often create a sense of excitement among drivers.
For this reason, they have a tendency to increase speed in the rain.
This behaviour is mystifying, given the increased danger because of the lack traction and increased stopping distance required in the rain.
The rainy season is upon us. Act accordingly. Allow more space and time.