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We’ve all seen what happens out on the road when it rains here in the Bay Area, and it’s not pretty. In fact, 75% of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on wet pavement and 47% happen during rainfall*. With those stats in mind, and an El Niño forecasted to bring extra wet weather, here are a few tips for helping your new driver be safe out there this winter.

First, a Bit of Background Info…

People always say the road is “slippery”, or “there is less traction when the road is wet”, but what does that mean? Well, think of trying to hold onto a wet bar of soap with wet hands. It’s much harder to hang onto the wet bar of soap than a dry one. If we apply that to driving, your car’s tires are your hands, and the road is the bar of soap. Your tires are trying to hold onto the road, but because of the water they can’t get as firm of a grip, and they might slip across the road surface like the soap slips through your hands. Ultimately, all of a car’s movements are controlled by the tire’s grip on the road, so understanding what “slippery” and “less traction” are all about is important background knowledge that every driver needs to have.

Adjust Your Speed, Spacing, and Time Management Accordingly

The roads are most dangerous when it first starts raining as rainwater brings oil on the road to the surface, reducing traction and maneuverability (just like the soap!). Reduced traction means increased stopping distances and requires lower cornering speeds, so when the road is wet, it is imperative that you reduce your speed, allow more space between your car and surrounding vehicles, and give yourself more time to get to and from destinations.

Standing Water and Hydroplaning

We’ve all experienced it at some point on a wet road, that scary feeling of hydroplaning. Hydroplaning occurs when your tires cannot clear the water on the road and actually rise up on top of the water (checkout the graphic below). When this happens, you need to avoid any major control inputs like hard braking and steering. Gently ease off the accelerator and let the car slow naturally. Be ready to adjust your steering input as the car may “dart” in one direction or another when the tires regain contact with the road. As always, look where you want to go (not where you are going), and your hands and eyes will work together to get you there in most situations.

Wipers on? Lights on!

Always put your lights on when it’s raining, even during the day. This helps make you more visible to other drivers and helps keep everyone safe.

Practice Makes Perfect

The more drive time you have in wet conditions, the better prepared you will be. At Greenlight Simulation, we have an exciting new way for drivers to safely experience these types of conditions, including hydroplaning, in the safety of our simulators. Learn more here.