Safety tips for driving in the rain

There are several ways to keep yourself safe while driving in the rain, including keeping your windshield clear, slowing down, and avoiding low areas and floods.

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Rachael BrennanRachael BrennanSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertRachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

Edited by

Anna SwartzAnna SwartzSenior Managing Editor & Auto Insurance ExpertAnna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

Published|4 min read

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Driving through the rain can be dangerous —  according to the Federal Highway Association (FHA), wet pavement causes 70% of weather-related car accidents, and rain causes 46% of weather-related car accidents. [1]

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But there are steps you can take to keep yourself safe on the road when the weather gets bad. You should also make sure you have enough car insurance to protect yourself financially if you are in an accident in heavy rain.

1. Keep your windshield clear

Reduced visibility is one of the things that makes driving in the rain unsafe. Keeping your windshield wipers in good working order is an important part of driving in the rain, but there is more you can do to improve visibility. Using the defroster to keep your front and rear windshield clear can also help improve visibility, along with making sure your lights and signals are all in good working order.

There are also some specialty products, like RainX and Aquapel, that can be applied to your windshield to create a hydrophobic surface that repels rain while you are driving. These products can be a useful tool in keeping your field of vision clear in inclement weather.

2. Avoid using your brights

If it is raining enough for you to turn on your windshield wipers, it is a good idea (and the law in many states) to turn on your headlights. While using your headlights may not seem like it is helping you very much when you're driving in the rain, it is important because it makes you more visible to other drivers on the road.

Using your headlights in the rain is helpful, but using your brights can actually be harmful. Bright light will reflect off the rain and wet surfaces, making it harder for you to see and causing problems for other drivers. 

Drivers with super bright LED headlights should consider reducing the lumens of their headlights or lowering the angle of their headlights so they aren’t blinded by the reflection of their lights in the rain.

3. Drive slowly and cautiously

Staying under the speed limit is important when driving through the rain. Speeding is never a good idea, but it is especially dangerous when it's raining. Wet roads mean it takes longer to come to a stop and, if you end up hydroplaning, you won't have any control over your car at all for a few seconds.

The best way to stay safe on slick, wet roads is to reduce your speed and leave plenty of space between yourself and the car ahead of you. This is true even when stopped; if you stop too close to the car in front of you and someone rear ends you, it could cause a pileup.

What is hydroplaning?

Hydroplaning can happen when there’s enough water in between your wheels and the surface of the road that your wheels lose traction and you can’t control your car. If you’re hydroplaning, pump your brakes lightly and steer into the direction of the skid until you’ve got traction again.

4. Skip the cruise control

Cruise control is a setting in many cars that lets you maintain a consistent speed on a long stretch of road, but it means giving up some control of your vehicle. Having full control of your car is especially important in wet, rainy weather and, if you hydroplane while using cruise control, it's likely you will lose control of your car when you regain traction. 

5. Avoid low areas and floods

Flooding is a serious concern when it rains, and it only takes a few inches of water to damage your car beyond repair. In fact, it only takes 12 inches of rushing water to carry most cars away. Remember, if you can’t see the lines on the road, the water is too deep to drive through.

Before you decide to cross a flooded area, keep in mind that a flooded car is almost always a total loss, since water can get into every part of a car and cause serious damage. Drivers with water damage can file a claim with their comprehensive coverage to repair or, more likely, replace their car.

6. Use the center lane

Because water tends to collect in the outside lanes, driving in the center lane when it’s raining is a good way to prevent accidentally flooding your vehicle.

Using the center lane also leaves space for people who need to pull over to the side of the road, whether that is because they can’t see well enough to drive through the rain, their engine got flooded, or they were in an accident.

7. Don’t brake too hard

Part of the reason you should slow down and give yourself more space when it rains is to prevent hard braking. Hard braking is one of the things that can cause a car to hydroplane on wet roads, which means it should be avoided in wet weather if at all possible.

Insufficient tread depth also increases the likelihood of hydroplaning, which means drivers who haven’t gotten new tires in a while should be especially light on the brake pedal, especially in bad weather.

8. Avoid unnecessary driving

Sometimes you can’t avoid driving. Getting to or from work and picking up your children from school can’t be avoided, but other trips should be postponed in extreme weather if at all possible. Putting off a trip to the grocery store or the mall until the rain stops is an excellent way to keep yourself safe.

The CDC states that more deaths occur because of flooding than any other thunderstorm-related hazard, and the most common flood deaths occur when a vehicle is driven into a flood. One of the best ways to avoid injury or death due to flooding is to stay off the roads until the storms and flooding are over. [2]

Frequently asked questions

When driving in the rain what should you do?

If you’re driving in the rain, you should use your windshield wipers and headlights, slow down, avoid flooded or potentially flooded areas, and avoid hard braking.

Is it safe to drive while it's raining?

Driving in the rain is more dangerous than driving when it’s sunny outside. There are ways to keep yourself safe on the road in inclement weather, but if it is raining so hard that you can’t see or have other problems navigating, you should pull over until the rain has slowed down.

How much harder is it to drive in the rain?

Depending on the circumstances, it can be much more difficult to drive in the rain. For example, if the rain is especially heavy it can make it hard to see while driving or, if it hasn’t rained in a while, the oil that ends up on the road as cars drive on them every day can build up and make hydroplaning more likely.

Is driving in the rain easy?

Driving in the rain isn’t easy, but if you slow down, put a little more distance between yourself and other drivers, and stay alert, you should be able to safely navigate the roads on most rainy days.

References

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  1. US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration

    . "

    How do weather events impact roads?

    ." Accessed January 12, 2023.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    . "

    Flood safety tips

    ." Accessed January 12, 2023.

Author

Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

Editor

Anna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

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