Wet Weather Driving

Hydroplaning in wet weatherWelcome to wet weather season in British Columbia! Some areas are blessed with this situation more often than others, but drivers need to be aware of the perils of wet highways. The well being of you and other road users depend on it.

Wet Weather Makes Pavement Slippery

Wet pavement alone can increase stopping distances by more than 10%. Water acts as a lubricant on the road surface and reduces traction. Add any dust and oil that might be present at the beginning of a rainfall and the highway could be very slippery until it is washed away.

Increase Your Following Distance

Now would be a great time to increase your following distance to 4 or 5 seconds. That extra time to slow or stop could come in handy.

Remember, reduced traction also means a reduced ability to steer.

Hydroplaning in Wet Weather

Hydroplaning is the situation where your tires are actually riding on top of a film of water on the asphalt. They are not in contact with the pavement and your vehicle will neither steer nor brake in this situation. To escape, lift your foot off the accelerator and coast in a straight line bleeding off speed until your tires are in contact with the road surface again.

Now steer or brake if required, and remember that it might be a good idea to proceed at reduced speed until the road conditions change for the better.

Steering before your tires regain contact with the road can result in a sudden change of direction when they do. This could cause you to collide with a vehicle beside you or running off the road altogether.

Factors Involved in Hydroplaning

Getting caught in a hydroplaning situation depends on four things; your tire's tread depth, the inflation pressure, your speed and the depth of the water on the road surface. You have complete control over three of these items. Make sure you have adequate tires and keep them inflated to the pressure on the door sticker. Slow down when it is wet.

Lastly, watch the tire tracks of the vehicle in front of you. If the tracks stay clear of water for a second or two behind the vehicle, the water is not deep and a higher speed may be tolerable. If the tracks fill in immediately, there is a lot of water on the road surface and you must slow to an appropriate speed immediately.

Water Puddling or Streaming

Beware of standing puddles on or streams of water across the highway. If you drive into one and the tires do not strike the water at the same time you may be pushed out of control as one side of the vehicle slows down in response and the other does not.

Moderate speeds during wet weather are your best bet for safety.

Driving at Night in Wet Weather

Driving at night in the rain can be difficult. Make sure that your wiper blades are up to the task and consider using a hydrophobic glass treatment to increase visual acuity. This is useful for windows other than the windshield and the mirrors too.

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Correct me if I’m wrong, but is this even covered in the learners section?  If not, it sure should be and have some pointed questions to go with it.

I thought folks had slowed down with the speed limit drop and mostly they have.I found high way 4 to be civilized, but driving in the rain on highway 19 brought some folks into unsafe high speed with limited visibilty.

On the way home from Qualicum there was a line of traffic pulled over at Cook Creek.Entitled folks paying fines.Occasionally. It is bit of a trap on that hill.

In dangerous places, there needs to be electronic monitoring and tickets. WE are all monitored –what’s the issue with taking aim at bad drivers?

Something that gets little mention, is the danger of using cruise control at highway speeds on a wet surface, particularly with high powered rear wheel drive cars. It's also worth considering road camber.

And yet, whether it's Highway 1 all the way across the lower mainland and east to the Fraser Valley, or Highway 19 down the Island, it's all too common to see drivers who have gone off the road as a consequence of the conditions; oftentimes they end up in the centre median area.

Cruise Control is designed to maintain your vehicle speed, regardless of conditions. But when there's too much water buildup under the front tires, pushing that water out of the way causes the vehicle to slow a bit. The Cruise Control doesn't like that, so naturally it applies more power from the motor to try and maintain vehicle speed; in some instances, the transmission will also drop a gear or two for added power. And that's when all of a sudden the car is going sideways as it loses traction. Maybe the vehicle stability control will assist sufficiently (particularly if the driver keeps a light touch on the steering, and keeps his/her eyes well ahead) or maybe you become part of the landscape.

Drivers in the left lane may also find that the camber of the road (which way it's designed to drain) is to the left, rather than the right, which can increase the chance of the vehicle wanting to veer left.

It's best to be in the highest gear possible (less power from the motor) which is easy enough with a standard shift, but needs to be selected deliberately in an automatic with that facility. Many drivers of automatics never even think about this.

Because the fact is, even if your vehicle is lifted clear of the road surface due to the accumulation of water buildup, there is no good reason for the car suddenly to go out of control. Only a strong input from the steering, braking, or accelerator is likely to make the vehicle go off course.