Learning how to drive in the Florida rain is an important part of living or vacationing here. Afternoon thunderstorms are the norm, leading to heavy traffic on the major roads.
People who don't change their driving habits on slick roads frequently cause a crash, making the drive that much less bearable for everyone else.
This isn't something we can blame on tourists who are unfamiliar with the weather conditions here – many of the accidents are from residents who ought to know better.
Road Conditions Change in the Rain
There are more problems than most people consider.
What Are Some Tips for Driving in the Rain?
Some of these tips may seem like common sense advice but pay attention to them so you're prepared the next time you're driving in the rain. You may find it's not so common after all.
1: Slow Down
This should seem obvious, but wet roads are slick roads.
This is particularly true when the rain starts falling on the road. There's a residue of oil from passing traffic that gets loose in the rain that tends to make things slippery.
You have less friction on the road and therefore you have less traction. It's easy to lose traction and hydroplane out of control.
Driving at a slower speed reduces the chance that your vehicle will slide out of control and gives you a greater chance of recovery if you get into a spinout.
2: Increase Space Between Cars
When I taught my daughter how to drive, I gave her a simple piece of advice.
With less traction, you need to give yourself more time to brake. If the car in front of you suddenly stops, you can't expect to stop in the same amount of space if you were on a dry road.
Give yourself some breathing room between your vehicle and the one in front of you. That gives you more time to react if the car you're following has some kind of incident.
If someone is following you closer than you'd like, gently slow down. If they're in such a hurry, they'll pass you.
3: Daytime Running Lights Are Not Headlights
Turn on your damn headlights so other cars can see you.
Remember, visibility gets reduced in front of you and behind you. Daytime Running Lights do not illuminate the rear of your car, making you much less visible than cars that turn on their headlights.
Just use the low beams. Using high beams in the rain, particularly a heavy downfall, just reflects light off the raindrops and does nothing to give you greater vision. It also means you won't blind oncoming traffic.
4: Put the Phone Down
I know, you think you can handle it when you're driving. Personally, I wish people would pay more attention to driving when they're driving than talking about something stupid on the phone.
Eliminate your distractions.
Not only do you have to compensate for the reduced visibility and poor road conditions, but you also have to watch out for the other fools who aren't paying attention.
Florida law now makes it a primary offense to use a handheld phone while driving. That means law enforcement can pull you over and cite you just for holding a phone.
5: Don't Use Hazard Lights
The people who drive with their hazard lights on in a rainfall just kill me. Please, stop it.
Driving in the rain with your hazard lights blinking is a distraction to other drives. Besides, it's illegal to use them while driving in Florida. You may only use your hazard lights while parked, not while driving.
Your low-beam headlights are sufficient to let others know where you are.
6: Don't Use Cruise Control
The idea of driving at a consistent speed is nice when the roads are dry. When the roads are wet, you need to quickly adapt and compensate for issues that may cause you to lose traction. That's easier to do when you're in control of the vehicle speed.
Cruise control may cause your engine to suddenly accelerate to maintain speed, which in turn may cause you to lose traction.
Control your own speed in the rain.
7: Avoid Puddles
We have a saying around here. Never stick your hand in the water when you can't clearly see what's in it.
That's mostly to avoid getting bit by a snake or a gator, but the same wisdom holds true in other situations, like driving.
Remember that pothole I mentioned before? We have plenty of them that get formed by the heat & rain every summer. Imagine driving along and suddenly hitting a pothole full of water, jarring your vehicle off its intended path.
Even if there isn't a pothole, a big enough puddle can still cause you to lose traction and slide away.
8: Drive in the Tracks of the Car In Front of You
On the opposite side of puddles, the car in front of you may leave a trail where its tires pushed some water out of the way. Less water, more friction for your car to hang on to the road.
Bless the car leaving a path with less water, so take advantage of it. Put your wheels in their tracks.
9: Check Your Tires
If you don't have any tread, you can't channel water out of the way and your car is more prone to hydroplane.
You can get away with flat tires in dry conditions, but Florida is a sub-tropical place with a lot of rain. Your tire tread channels the water out of the way so you can have good traction on wet roads.
If you don't have enough tread on your tires, you're increasing your risk of hydroplaning out of control.
How to Recover a Car in a Hydroplane
Despite your precautions, you may run into a situation where you lose traction and your car starts sliding. Here's what you need to remember.
1: Don't Panic
Panicking won't help. It may kill you. Keep calm and think. You'll have plenty of time to worry after you correct the slide and safely pull over.
2: Turn Into the Slide
While it may seem counter-intuitive, you want to turn your wheels to align with the direction your car is sliding.
If you turn away from the slide, your tires aren't in a position to channel the water out of the way. Worse, you'll likely flip your car over when your tires regain traction. Go with the force of moving your car.
In many cases, you can very quickly turn into the slide and recover control quickly. Then you can slow down and steer in a different direction to avoid any obstacles ahead.
3: Don't Slam the Brakes
On dry roads, brakes add friction to slow down your pace and come to a stop. It doesn't work the same way in a hydroplane slide.
You're sliding. The brakes stop the tires, which are sliding. That means you've actually reduced friction that could stop your slide.
Tires that aren't spinning in a hydroplane just go along for the ride.
4: Hit the Gas
Moving tires create friction. By using applying acceleration, you're increasing the odds of creating friction and recovering traction.
Be mindful of the feel of your car. When you can tell there's some traction, ease off the gas.
5: Avoid the Grass
If you think the road is slick, wait until you try sliding on wet grass. Do your best to stay on the asphalt. It's designed to increase friction.
Wet grass may also mean wet mud, which is highly unpredictable. You could get caught in a mudslide or you may hit a tree root that bounces your car into a flip. Stay off the grass.
6: Pull Over AFTER You Recover
Once you've recovered traction, find a safe place to safely pull over.
Now you can freak out if you want. Compose yourself. Turn on your hazard lights. Check your car for damage.
Once you're ready, find a safe opportunity to get back on the road and keep going. The excitement is over.
Learning How to Drive in the Florida Rain
We deal with this weather every year, so you need to know how to drive in the Florida rain. It's better to be prepared and pay attention so you're not the one waiting for a tow truck while all the other drivers curse you for screwing up I-4. Just slow down and pay attention.
Understanding how to drive in the Florida rain can save your life or at least avoid a costly accident.
Click here to check out other articles on Orlando Transportation.