Q: With winter fast approaching us, can you give me some tips for driving in rainy weather?

A: Southern California just experienced a few days of rain and there’s no way of knowing exactly how much more we’ll see during the winter. Rain in this region has been sporadic, and there are a few things we all need to consider before we operate our vehicles during wet weather conditions.

First and foremost, we all need to slow down when it rains. Speed is one of the most common contributing factors that cause traffic collisions on wet roadways. Always plan ahead by checking your local weather forecast at least a day in advance. There are several sources for you to check the weather. The Internet, your local newspaper, your local television news station, or local news radio station are a few sources you can access for daily weather forecasts. If there are any predictions for rain, be smart and leave early. You’ll be glad you did.

Now is a good time to check the operation of your windshield wipers on your vehicle. Try not to wait until it rains to see if they function properly. Most cars are equipped with a windshield cleaning function. Activate it and see if your windshield wipers are creating streaks in the washer fluid which makes it difficult for you to see clearly. Are they squeaking? If this is the case, you may need to clean the wiper blades and/or the windshield. Dirt or wax build up are two common factors which cause wiper blades to squeak or create streaks on your windshield. Use a towel or rag and clean the blades (the rubber portion that actually glides across the windshield) along with your windshield. Once you’ve cleaned them, try the windshield wiper cleaning function again. If you get the same results, you may need to have your wiper blades replaced.

Once you’ve checked your windshield wipers, make sure to check your tires. California law requires vehicles to have at least 1/32 of an inch in tire tread depth. This is the minimum requirement. You can use a penny to check your tire tread depth. Place a penny in between your tire tread with President Lincoln facing you. Roll the penny until President Lincoln’s head is upside down. If your tire tread covers any part of the top of President Lincoln’s head, you’ll know that you have more than the minimum requirement of tire tread depth. The treads on your tires are very important for traction on wet roadways. When your tires run over water, the water is displaced and it needs somewhere to go quickly. The best place is between the treads of your tires. If your tires are bald, the water has no place to go and you end up riding on a layer of water, like a boat. This is commonly referred to as hydroplaning.

There are a lot of factors involved in causing a vehicle to hydroplane. Vehicle speed, tire tread depth, tire pressure, water depth and roadway surface are just to name a few. If you find yourself in this situation (hydroplaning), do not slam on your brakes or turn abruptly! This could throw your vehicle into an uncontrollable skid. Hold the steering wheel firmly and don’t steer in any other direction. Ease your foot off the gas until the vehicle slows and your steering returns to normal. If you need to brake, do it gently with light pumping actions. If your car has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally; the vehicle’s computer will mimic a pumping action, when necessary. If your vehicle’s tires are still in partial contact with the road surface, you should be able to regain control of the vehicle.

Driving in the rain or on wet roadways can present extra hazards to your normal commute. If you maintain your vehicle’s equipment (tires, wiper blades, lighting, etc.) and plan ahead, you can be a safer driver during inclement weather. Following these guidelines will increase your safety while commuting or driving in the rain:

• Slow down. It takes longer to stop on wet roadways.

• Maintain a proper following distance from the vehicle in front of you.

• Drive in the middle lanes. Water tends to pool in the outside lines.

• Drive in the tracks of the vehicle in front of you.

• Avoid following large trucks or buses closely. Their large tires create a spray that can reduce your vision.

• When possible, let your foot off of the gas pedal to slow down rather than using your brakes.

• Stay alert to the road. Put away any and all distractions.

• Check your windshield wiper blades before it rains.

• Do not drive through a puddle or pool of water that is deeper than the bottom of your door.

This column was prepared by Neighborhood Resource Officer Mike Boyd (Beat 8: Pico Neighborhood). He can be reached at (424) 200-0688 or michael.boyd@smgov.net.

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