29 June 2022
How to be a better driver in the wet
Becoming a good driver takes practice in all conditions. You need to drive in thick traffic, as well as quiet streets, in the day time as well as night. It’s also important that new drivers learn how to safely and confidently drive in the rain and on wet roads.
Compared to driving in the snow or on sand, driving in the wet is relatively common for most Australians. However there’s something about rain (especially the heavy variety) that can render many of us novices.
Whether you’re a learner or an experienced driver, this article explores the tips and skills necessary to keep us all a little safer on wet roads.
There are three main things to remember when driving in the rain; it’s harder for you to see, it’s harder for others to see you and it takes longer to slow down. That means you should drive slower and with even greater focus.
Light it up
A life ‘hack’ is that if you are ever considering putting your headlights on, you should do it. The moment you feel visibility is low, or you are struggling to see gauges on your dashboard, it’s the right time to put your lights on. In the rain, putting headlights on is as much about making yourself more visible as it is about seeing where you’re going. Newer cars often have auto running lights which are slightly less bright than headlights and turn on whenever the car is on. If your car doesn’t have this feature, make it a habit to turn them on when it starts to rain.
In the wet, a car takes almost twice as long to stop. That means, you need to always be looking ahead and to engage the brakes well in advance of your stop. Allow plenty of space between your car and the car in front. We recommend four seconds to ensure you have time to both react and safely slow down. It’s important not to slam on the brakes as this could cause the car to skid. Apply careful, slow pressure to maintain control of the vehicle.
If it hasn’t rained for a while, the road will also be more slippery due to a build up of engine oil on the ground. Eventually this gets washed away, but initially, it will reduce your car’s traction.
Use the right car controls
Modern cars have a number of features that make driving in the wet safer. However they’re only useful if they’re used correctly! Windscreen wipers become worn and damaged over time, and smudge the water instead of cleanly wiping it away. They should be replaced about every 12 months. Any auto part retail store will sell them, and many will also install them for you too. Once you turn them on, you can adjust the speed. It’s recommended that you familiarise yourself with your wiper controls when the car is stationary so that you don’t need to take your eyes off the road to engage them.
Along with water on the outside, fog can form on the inside of both your front and rear windscreen. Try to resist the urge to wipe it away with your hand as this will leave dirty streaks. Instead, use your car’s demister conditioning function. Using cool air will work better than using hot air.
Should you drive through water?
As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t drive through water. Anything deeper than 15 centimetres will likely result in water entering your exhaust, causing the car to lose power. It can also be difficult to assess the situation just by sight. The road under water could be badly damaged and there may be submerged debris that will damage your car. It can also be hard to tell the speed and intensity of running water.
Wait it out
If you aren’t in a rush, sometimes it’s safer to avoid driving in the rain completely. Take a moment to look at the radar on the Bureau of Meteorology which will indicate whether the rain is going to pass within a few minutes. If you’re not comfortable driving in the wet, there’s nothing wrong with postponing your trip and waiting it out.
Make sure your vehicle is protected. Even for the most experienced driver, accidents can happen. Head to NRMA Insurance for a quote on your car insurance.