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 the 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.
- The wet roads create a thin film between your tires and the asphalt.
- Your perception is impaired by reduced visibility because it's difficult to see through the rain. It often gets darker, too.
- Oil builds up on roads during dry weather. When it mixes with a fresh rain, road conditions become exceptionally slick.
- Your windows may fog up. We have a lot of humidity and the temperatures change rapidly during a storm – fogging your windows.
- Hidden obstacles can give you a jolt. When that pothole fills up with water, you may not even know it's there until your car bounces from the impact.
- Other drivers are still distracted. Let's face it – we're surrounded by frickin' idiots!
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.
- Slow Down – You have less friction on the road and therefore you have less traction. It's easy to lose traction and hydroplane out of control.
- Increase Space Between Cars – 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.
- Daytime Running Lights Are Not Headlights – Turn on your damn headlights so other cars can see you. Remember, visibility is 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 who turn on their headlights. Just use the low beams.
- Don't Use Hazard Lights – 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. Your low-beam headlights are sufficient to let others know where you are.
- 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.
- Don't Use Cruise Control – It 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.
- Avoid Puddles – Remember that pothole I mentioned before? We have plenty of them that get formed by the heat & rain every summer.
- Drive in the Tracks of the Car In Front of You – That car is leaving a path with less water, so take advantage of it. Put your wheels in its tracks.
- 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.
If You Start Sliding
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.
- Don't Panic – It won't help. It may kill you. Keep calm and think.
- Turn Into the Slide – If you turn away from the slide, your tires aren't in 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 moving your car.
- Don't Slam the Brakes – You're sliding. The brakes stop the tires, which are sliding. That means you've actually reduced friction that could stop your slide.
- Hit the Gas – Moving tires create friction. By using applying acceleration, you're increasing the odds of creating friction and recovering traction.
- 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.
- 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. 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. 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.