Driving safely when summer storms pop

Safety in the Storm

(Copyright: Associated Press)

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Summer showers and storms have brought torrential downpours to parts of Southwest and Central Virginia, causing issues for drivers on the roads.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately 21-percent of traffic crashes in the country are weather-related. On average, more than 4,000 drivers are killed every year in crashes that occur on wet pavement; nearly 2,500 of those fatalities are from crashes that occur when it is raining.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) says if you can avoid driving in wet weather, then stay put. However, with the chance for more pop-up showers and storms in the forecast, here are some safety tips to follow if you get caught driving through a downpour:

  • Remember to turn on your headlights when driving through wet weather. Virginia law states headlights must be on whenever windshield wipers are in use for rain.
    • Don’t turn on your high beams; the brighter light will reflect off wet surfaces and bounce back into your eyes and the eyes of other drivers.
  • Slow down to avoid hydroplaning. New tires can still lose contact with wet roads at speeds as low as 35 mph, according to AAA. It only takes about 1/12 inch of water for cars to hydroplane.
  • VDOT encourages drivers to leave plenty of following distance between vehicles — four to five seconds of following distance is considered a good rule of thumb.
  • Watch for spray from larger vehicles, like trucks and tractor trailers.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving on wet roadways. If you hydroplane while using cruise control, the automatic acceleration can cause you to lose control of your vehicle when your tires regain traction.

If it’s raining hard enough that you can’t see the edges of the road or other vehicles at a safe distance while driving, pull off to the side of the road as far as you can and wait for the rain to ease up. Make sure to turn on emergency flashers to alert other drivers.

If your vehicle begins to hydroplane or skid, let off the gas but don’t slam on the brake or turn suddenly. Turn the steering wheel in the direction you want to go. Then, ease your foot off the accelerator until the car slows down and you can feel the road again.

VDOT says if you come across a flooded roadway, turn around and find an alternate route. Do not try to drive through moving or standing water.

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