Spring on the Road

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How to safely navigate wet roadways

Spring showers certainly may bring flower laters on, but they also contribute to challenging driving conditions. Early spring weather can be fickle, vacillating between dry, wet and even icy conditions. Drivers need to remain on their toes to safely traverse roadways near and far.

Wet roadways and poor driving conditions contribute to thousands of road accidents each and every year. As roads get wet, oil and other substances rise to the surface of the pavement, which can quickly become slippery and compromise the traction offered by tires. According to the United States Department of Transportation, there are around 707,000 automobile crashes each year due to rain.

Heavy rains also may lead to puddles, which can obscure hazards on the roadway. Cars may stall out in puddles or hydroplane, which occurs when cars coast along the surface of the water. Puddles also can be splashed by oncoming cars, leading to visibility issues.

It is in every driver's best interest to use caution when driving on wet roads. The following tips can help prevent accidents, injuries and even fatalities during the rainy season.

• Slow down. Drivers should drive slower when roads are wet and when rain compromises visibility. It can take up to three times longer to stop on a wet road than a dry one. By slowing down you will be able to stop or veer out of the way of danger.

• Leave room. When driving on wet roads, leave more room between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Again, this plays into stopping distance. Tailgating increases your risk of rear-ending a vehicle if you cannot stop in time on a wet roadway.

• Stay alert. It can be easy to be lulled into complacency while driving. But staying alert and conscious of every detail going on around you can reduce your risk of accident when driving in less than ideal conditions.

• Skip cruise control. As a driver, you want to remain in control of acceleration and speed, rather than leaving it up to the cruise control system. If you begin to hydroplane on cruise control, the car may actually speed up.

• Use your headlights. Headlights can light up the road in front of you, helping illuminate potential hazards. Lights on a car also make your vehicle more visible to others on the road. Always turn on the headlights in inclement weather.

• Avoid jerky movements. Keep a steady pace and the vehicle in control. Jerking the wheel or accelerating and braking in a erratic fashion can cause the vehicle to spin out or skid on wet roads.

• Check your tires. Inspect your tires for tread wear and air pressure. Tires should be rotated as part of routine maintenance. Poorly performing tires are a significant safety risk. If you live in an area known for a lot of rain, invest in tires designed for wet road conditions.

Don't let wet weather get the best of you. Slow down, stay visible and be on the alert.