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Most drivers take wet conditions for granted. According to the Federal Highway Administration, wet pavement was responsible for 74% of weather-related accidents from 2002 to 2012. By comparison, snow and sleet were the cause of only 17% of weather-related crashes. What makes rain and wet pavement so dangerous?

Oil and other lubricants drip onto pavement as people drive. Rain loosens the accumulation of these substances and spreads. So, drivers are moving across a thin film of water, oil and grease that can reduce traction and cause a car to skid. Even careful drivers can experience skids.

Safe driving in wet-weather conditions begins before you get behind the wheel.

  • Check tire tread depth with a quarter inserted upside down into the tire groove. If you can see above Washington’s head, replace the tires. Proper tire tread depth and inflation are imperative to maintaining good traction on wet roadways.
  • Check air pressure in tires at least once a month. Be sure to check the pressure when the tires are cold.
  • Replace windshield wipers that leave streaks or don’t clear the glass in a single swipe.
  • Make sure all headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals are working properly.

Here are some driving tips from AAA the next time you get caught in the driving in the rain.

Turn on Headlights. Anytime visibility is reduced, turn on your vehicle’s lights so that other drivers can more easily see you. Being visible is an important part of avoiding accidents.

Slow Down and Leave Room. Wet roads reduce your car’s handling and increase the distance it takes to stop (up to 4 times normal stopping distance). Slowing down during wet weather driving can be critical to reducing a car’s chance of hydroplaning. At speeds as low as 35 mph, new tires can still lose some contact with the roadway. To reduce chances of hydroplaning, you should slow down, avoid hard braking or turning sharply and allow ample stopping distance between you and the cars in front of you.

Avoid Cruise Control. Turn off cruise control to avoid hydroplaning. If you hydroplane while utilizing cruise control, your car can accelerate to a high rate of speed. When cruise control is used in wet conditions, the chance of losing control of the vehicle can increase. To prevent loss of traction, you may need to reduce the car’s speed by lifting off the accelerator, which cannot be accomplished when cruise control is engaged. By the time you disengage the cruise control, you may have lost control.

Avoid Large Puddles and Deep Water. Big puddles can cut down on tire traction and could lead to hydroplaning. Never drive into water if you can’t tell how deep it is. Water that is two feet deep can float a vehicle off the road. If water is over the road, don’t try to go through it.

Avoid Potholes. Potholes can fill with water and create pools that are difficult to see until you run over one and possibly swerve out of control.

Handling a Skid. You can prevent skids by driving slowly and carefully, especially on curves. Steer and brake with a light touch. If you find yourself in a skid, don’t panic, Ease your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. Avoid slamming on the brakes as this will make it much harder to maintain control. For cars without anti-lock brakes, avoid using your brakes. If your car has ABS, brake firmly as you “steer into the skid.”

Hydroplaning can happen anytime roads are wet. Here are a few safety tips if you begin to hydroplane:

  • Don’t panic.
  • Turn your steering wheel in the direction of the skid. As you recover control, gently straighten the wheels.
  • Ease off the gas until the vehicle slows and you can feel traction on the road again. Do not hit the brakes, since this may cause you to skid.
  • If you need to brake, gently apply the brakes (lightly pump standard brakes, apply consistent pressure if you have ABS).
  • Avoid hard braking and turning suddenly.

Remember, most importantly stay alert when driving in wet weather. Pay extra attention and reduce distractions.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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