Safe driving in wet conditions
Wet weather conditions can make driving dangerous. However, through the application of some simple driving techniques and regular vehicle maintenance, you can improve your safety when you next experience a heavy downpour of rain.
Regular vehicle maintenance is essential for safe driving, as well as employing some techniques when the roads are wet.
Make sure your vehicle is up to date with the following maintenance tips at all times, but particularly before you expect to be driving in rain:
Tyre tread depth
Your tyres should have plenty of tread depth to ensure effective water dispersion, sufficient grip on road surfaces and to assist in safe braking distances. Do not put off replacing worn tyres.
The legal limit for tread depth in Australia is a minimum of 1.5mm. It is strongly advisable, however, that you don’t wait until your tyres have reached their legal limit before considering new tyres.
Tyres have tread wear indicators - cross ribs, which are evenly spaced around the circumference of the tyre in the main longitudinal tread grooves. These tread wear indicators become level with the tread surface when the remaining tread depth is down to approximately 1.6mm.
The depth of the tread wear indicators can differ on specific tyres. For example, Continental have introduced an additional “Summer Treadwear Indicator” in various summer tyre lines. The Summer TWI informs the driver when the remaining tyre tread depth is 3mm. Once the tread is worn down to 3mm, the Summer Indicator becomes level with the surface of the tread pattern, indicating that there’s a significant reduction in the wet grip performance. In this instance, it’s recommended that you change your summer tyres when there is 3mm remaining tread depth.
If your current tyres are worn to the tread wear indicators it’s time to head to your local BestDrive store to speak with a qualified technician about a new set of tyres. We will ensure that your new tyres meet your vehicle’s requirements and are well suited to your driving habits.
Maintaining correct tyre pressure is an essential part of regular vehicle maintenance. When tyre pressures are too low, or too high - this can lead to a loss in traction, premature tread wear or even tyre damage.
You should be checking, and adjusting, your tyre pressure every 14 days (including the spare if you have one). It’s especially important to check and adjust your tyre pressures before going on a long journey or on holiday, where the additional load may require the tyre pressures to be increased according to the specification. Having appropriately inflated tyres not only prolongs their life, but it also increases vehicle safety and enhances performance, including in wet weather conditions.
You can find the recommended tyre pressure for your vehicle in either your owner’s manual or your vehicle placard, which is typically located in the door jamb on the driver’s side of your vehicle.
If you aren’t confident to check your tyre pressure yourself at home, the friendly staff at your local BestDrive store will be happy to assist.
Visibility is a key component of safe driving. Whilst many people may not stop to consider the condition of their wiper blades, they are essential for safe driving in wet weather conditions.
Be prepared for driving in wet weather conditions by regularly checking the condition of your wiper blades and replace them as necessary. When in good working order, your vehicle’s wiper blades are responsible for effectively clearing your windshield and improving visibility. Damaged or cracked wiper blades will not work properly and may scratch your glass.
Dust, dirt, grime and debris may build up on your wiper blades over time. To remove this, simply wipe a wet towel along the edge of the rubber blade. This will ensure that they’re working efficiently and can assist in their wear life.
This is also a good opportunity to inspect the condition of your wiper blades. Look for signs of wear, tears, hardened or cracked areas and replace them as necessary. Typically, wiper blades require replacement around every six months.
Wiper blades can be replaced during a service. Simply mention that you would like your wiper blades checked when booking in your next vehicle service at your local BestDrive.
Vehicle lights are in working order
It’s important that your vehicle is visible to other road users. This is particularly important in situations where visibility is reduced, such as during wet weather conditions.
You need to check that your headlights are properly aligned and that all of the bulbs are working. Bulbs burn out or dim over time so it is advisable to have them inspected, at least once a year, by the team at your local BestDrive to make sure that they’re functioning correctly.
A simple visual inspection can also be conducted in your own time by turning them on and walking around your vehicle to check if all lights are working. If you have someone available to assist you, then they can also inspect the brake lights.
When you find yourself driving in wet weather conditions, it is advisable to follow these driving practices to keep you safe, and to provide you with a better driving experience:
Maintain a safe braking distance
When the roads are wet, you will need to brake earlier as wet roads offer less grip. Braking earlier increases the stopping distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. It also lets the driver behind you know that you are slowing down.
Slow down and drive to the conditions
Remember that the signed speed limit is the maximum safe speed in ideal driving conditions. When driving in wet weather, you should adjust your speed limit to suit the conditions. Driving at a slower speed will decrease your chances of aquaplaning or skidding.
See and be seen
During wet weather, driver visibility is reduced. Driving with your lights on low beam will make it easier for you to see, particularly if there is fog, as well as assist other road users to see you.
Use your air conditioner to dehumidify the air inside of your vehicle, which will help to prevent your windows from fogging over.
In very heavy rain - pull over
There may be instances where wet weather conditions become so severe that you are best to pull over and wait for the rain to subside. If you aren’t able to pull into a rest area, pull off as far as possible from the road and keep your headlights on to alert other drivers of your presence. In some instances, you may need to put your hazard lights on too.
As a driver during wet weather conditions, you may experience the following:
Aquaplaning occurs when there is a build-up of water between the road surface and your tyres, which causes them to completely lose contact with the road surface. If this occurs, you may lose control of your vehicle.
If you find your vehicle aquaplaning, don’t brake or turn the vehicle suddenly as you may skid. Rather, ease your foot off the accelerator and if you must brake, do so as gently as possible.
To reduce your chances of aquaplaning in wet weather, slow down, do not use cruise control on wet roads, and ensure that your tyres have reasonable tread depth.
Wet road surfaces can increase the likelihood of skidding. If some of your vehicle’s tyres slip, but you still have some traction on the road, this is classified as skidding.
To recover from a skid, ease your foot off the accelerator and steer the vehicle in the direction that you want it to go.
Skidding is best avoided by smooth cornering, acceleration and braking. You should also reduce your speed and drive to the conditions.
Black ice occurs when a thin sheet of ice forms over a hard surface. Due to its transparent appearance, it is extremely difficult to detect.
It is most common around dawn or in the late evening. Drivers should be particularly careful of roadways that have limited exposure to sunlight, and on bridges or overpasses as they can freeze more rapidly.
If you encounter black ice, try to remain calm and let your vehicle pass over it. Don’t brake suddenly or over-steer the vehicle. Keep your steering wheel steady and lift your foot off the accelerator.
Roads are often at their most slippery just after the rain starts. During long dry spells, dust, dirt, oil and other fluids, which have built up over time, are brought to the surface by the water on the road. This greasy, slippery film is referred to as summer ice and creates a potential hazard for unsuspecting drivers.
Accidents involving summer ice are best avoided by reducing your speed on wet roads after a long dry period. Gentle steering, acceleration and braking and maintaining a safe driving distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you will also be of assistance.
Regular vehicle maintenance and driving to suit the conditions are key when it comes to ensuring your safety on the roads during wet weather. If your vehicle is due for a service, or you are unsure about the quality of your tyres, why not contact your local BestDrive store to speak with one of our experienced technicians, who are only too happy to assist.
BestDrive. You drive, we care.