Austin storms signal flash flood warning
While most people know to slow down when it rains, there are a number of other tips that can help you feel safer and more secure while driving. What we need to recognize is that driving in fair weather is utterly different than driving in foul weather. It requires a whole different set of driving eyes and a new level of awareness. Follow these tips next time you get caught driving in the rain.
Keep in mind there are three main factors that can increase the possibility of hydroplaning.
- Speed of the vehicle
- Tread depth on the vehicle’s tires
- Depth of the water on the road
What to do if you Hydroplane
Okay, so the point isn’t to learn how to hydroplane, but if you find yourself in a hydroplaning situation the point is not to try to get out of it by turning your wheel or slamming on your brakes. Experts advise that it is key not to panic.
Experts say that you should do next depends on the type of vehicle that you drive.
For some vehicles, experts advise to look for open space and plan to travel in that direction.
- Front wheel drive with Anti-lock Brake System and Traction Control: look for open space and plan to travel in that direction. Leave your foot on the accelerator, going at the same rate, and steer gently towards the open space.
- Front wheel drive without Anti-lock Brake System and Traction Control: This vehicle should also look for open space and plan to travel in it. A driver in this vehicle should maintain some speed and steer cautiously towards the open space.
- Rear wheel drive with Anti-lock Brake System and Traction Control: A driver in this type of vehicle should also plan to look for open space and plan to travel in that direction. Not changing the direction of your wheels or their speed will help you regain control when your car finds traction again.
Hold your steering wheel straight and let off lightly on the accelerator. Your car will eventually find traction again. Not changing the direction of your wheels or their speed will help you regain control when your car finds traction again. So don’t slam on your brakes, which only leads to you losing more control while hydroplaning, or turn the wheel. Remain and calm, and let your car hydroplane back into a safe position.
This can be a super scary experience so afterwards, take some deep breaths and pull over if you need to until you feel calm and capable again.
How to Avoid Hydroplaning
Taking extra precautions before heading out and while driving could prevent a scary and potentially disastrous hydroplaning event. Rain prevents your ability to see other drivers, and other drivers can’t see you as well.
If It Hasn’t Rained In A While, Take Extreme Caution.
What makes driving in the rain in Texas extra dangerous is that we go through long dry spells and then we’ll suddenly get a huge downpour or one of those fifteen minute thunderstorms that last just long enough to get the roads soaking wet.
During a dry spell, grease and oil buildup on the roads. When it rains, the water mixes with this oil and the roads are extremely slick. Eventually, the water will wash the oil and grease from the road, but you should take extreme caution when driving on the road during the first few hours of a rain storm. The first thing you should do is throw on you rain driving hat, relax, and take your time going from place to place.
Go Easy On The Brakes and Acceleration
An easy way to lose traction is to hit the brakes to hard (or speed up to fast). This is because there is less resistance or friction on the road. So the first thing you should adjust after you’ve started being cautious is to remember to take it easy: don’t accelerate too fast and don’t hit your brakes too hard.
NOTE: Tapping lightly on your brakes periodically will ensure that your rotors are dry; therefore, they will work more efficiently when you need them most.
Leave Plenty of Room and Use Your Signals Early
The next thing to be aware of is other drivers. You need to let them know your intentions and be aware of theirs. Since slamming on your brakes will lead to a loss of traction, you should stay farther back from other drivers (and don’t stay in front of semi trucks!) that way you have plenty of room to slow down and the trucks and cars behind you will too.
When taking turns, don’t drive slower than normal. A water puddle on a turn can lead to a hydroplaning vehicle so take it slow, don’t slam on your brakes, and give yourself plenty of room.
With old tires, a car is more likely to hydroplane. Less tread means less surface area for the tires to grip to the road. If you feel your car skidding around on wet surfaces, the first thing you should do is slow down. Then check to see if you may be in need of new tires. Avoid areas with pools of water.
Since hydroplaning is a loss of traction to the front tires, it’s important not to brake or accelerate suddenly.
Don’t Use Cruise Control in Rain
In cruise control mode, the vehicle will recognize the water as slow down. As a result, the vehicle will power up to match the speed. This can cause the car to shift to a lower gear and build even more water.
Track The Car In Front of You
Follow the same path as the car in front of you so that your tires are hitting the dryer spots on the road from the other driver’s tracks. This will also help you see when there is a puddle coming up ahead.
NOTE: Most roads have a “crown” in the middle so that water will run to their side. If you can, stay close to the middle of the road.
Drive Around Puddles
Hitting a puddle at a high speed can lead to a loss of traction. If you see a puddle up ahead, try to switch lanes or drive around it. If you are forced to hit the puddle, let off your accelerator and slow down as much as you can without being too abrupt.
NEVER drive through running water. In Austin, flash floods happen all the time. Don’t even risk it. Wait it out or find another route.
Remember to Maintain Your Vehicle
This is important no matter what conditions you are driving in. Make sure you periodically check these items:
- Your tire’s tread and air pressure. Get an air pressure gauge to and make sure your are around 32 psi. To check the safety of your tire tread: Stick a penny with Abraham Lincoln’s head-first into the tire’s tread. When the tread doesn’t reach the head of Abraham Lincoln, it’s time to get new tires.
- Make sure your windshield wipers are in pristine condition.
- Check your brakes as well. If you ever start to hear any grinding you need new brakes. Or you can take it to your local mechanic to have them checked. If it’s been over 2 years. It’s a good idea to get them checked.
You Can Always Pull Over
Remember, if at any point you are driving and feel to anxious or scared, pull over. Don’t let your emotions take control. When you pull over make sure you are far enough off the road to avoid being hit or try to find a nearby parking lot.
In Texas, rain is both a great blessing and a grave curse. Take extra care driving and, if you can, take extra appreciation when you’re in the safe confines of your home or local coffee shop while it rains. If you find yourself in a car accident, call us and we’ll help you get through the process of recovery.