Rain is coming; Sully’s wet weather driving 101

Sep 16, 2021, 5:44 AM
Rain Seattle, wet weather...
Rain in the Seattle area. (MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

Everyone get your Washington Driver’s Manual out. The first really heavy rain of the summer is on its way, and I want to make sure you’re prepared.

Let’s open our manuals to page 4-19: “Adjusting to Road Conditions.”

This is where you will find all the information you need to be safe in wet driving conditions. The most important thing to do is to slow down when encountering wet roads, maybe by as much as 10 miles an hour. Your car will not stop as fast in wet conditions as it does in dry conditions. Be sure to leave a lot more distance between your car and the car in front of you.

How Washington road crews decide which roads to repair

Washington State Trooper Chase Van Cleave shared his first thoughts of wet weather driving.

“Following too close and not adjusting our speed,” he said. “Five to 10 miles an hour difference can make a huge difference when we are trying to stop our car.”

Trooper Van Cleave expects to see a lot of rear-end crashes when the weather turns, primarily caused by speed and stopping distance. Distracted driving only makes things worse.

The road itself is different after we get our first heavy rain. All the oils and small debris that have accumulated during the dry weather start coming to the surface, making it super slick.

“Your stopping time is different and if there’s a lot of water on the road, you can hydroplane,” he said.

If you have ever experienced hydroplaning, you know how scary it can be. You’ve lost control of your car, and you can panic. And your first instinct in that situation will likely be wrong.

“You don’t want to slam on your brakes or turn the wheel,” Trooper Van Cleave said. “You’re going to continue to lose control and not go where you want to go.”

Try looking three or four cars ahead of you so you’ll be better able to react to sudden stopping.

Checking the condition of your car before the rain hits is also a must-do.

“Go around and look at your car and make sure your tires aren’t bulging on the side and make sure your tread is good,” Trooper Van Cleave said. “It wouldn’t hurt to check the lights on your car and make sure they’re all working.”

Be sure to check your tire pressure as well. It doesn’t take a lot of water to lose traction. Make sure your lights are on while you’re driving, too.

Trooper Van Cleave has this simple advice for us as we prepare for wet weather: “Wake up a little bit earlier and anticipate that drive times are going to be longer, and plan accordingly. Ultimately, so that you’re not the car that ends up in a collision and is causing the back up for everyone else.”

Or worse, you can get injured.

The refresher course is now over. You can close your manuals.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.


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Rain is coming; Sully’s wet weather driving 101