Preparing your vehicle and your mind to drive on wet roads

Highway driving on wet roads

Road conditions, precipitation, traffic, and several other factors all impact the way we drive. Being able to adjust your driving habits is vital to keeping you, your passengers, and other drivers safe. For experienced drivers, navigating wet roads might seem simple — slow down, increase your following distance, etc. — but there is often more to it than that. Whether you’ve been driving for decades or you’ve had your license for just a few years, the tips below can make all the difference when driving on wet roads.

Best practices for driving on wet roads

Turn your headlights on

By law, many states require drivers to have their headlights on while it’s raining but, without fail, it’s easy to find dozens of vehicles with their headlights off during heavy rain. When the roads are wet, it becomes difficult to see road markings and other vehicles.

Headlight use doesn’t only apply for heavy rainfall — even if it’s just misting, turning your headlights on should be step one on your safe driving checklist.

Handle hydroplaning

Car tire hydroplaning on wet road
Hydroplaning occurs when standing water creates a thin layer between your tires and the road surface, causing a loss of traction that drastically minimizes your ability to control your vehicle.

First and foremost, try to avoid standing water. If that’s not possible, decrease your speed. Driving over standing water at a slower speed may allow you to pass over the area without hydroplaning.

If you can’t avoid hydroplaning, you need to know how to react to it. Do not brake or accelerate — simply decrease the pressure on your accelerator and steer into the direction your vehicle is traveling, even if your instincts tell you otherwise. Changing direction while hydroplaning may cause you to spin out of control. Keep your composure and wait for the skid to end, then adjust your speed or pull over and wait for the weather to clear up.

Focus ahead

You should always focus on the traffic ahead, but by keeping your eyes up and beyond a few car lengths, you’ll make better decisions when other drivers hydroplane, quickly reduce speed, or abruptly brake.

Preparing your vehicle for wet roads

Check your tires

As the only four points of contact between your vehicle and the road, your tires are vital to driving safely on wet roads. If your tires’ tread is wearing thin, it will be harder to maintain and regain traction in slippery conditions.

You can use a penny to check if your tires have adequate tread depth. Simply put a penny in your tire tread with Abe Lincoln’s head pointing down toward the tire. If you can see his entire head, it’s time for new tires. Of course, you can always ask your vehicle maintenance provider if you’d like a professional opinion.

Driving on wet roads poses a challenge, but if you are cautious and prepared, you’ll feel more confident and make better decisions.