Summer and road trips go hand in hand, and this summer will be no exception. In fact, according to AAA, you can expect 10 percent more travelers on the road this summer than the record-breaking numbers from last summer—and that’s despite a projected 30 cent increase in the price of gas.
If it feels a little crowded out there, it’s not your imagination.
Safety: Not in Numbers, But in Knowledge and Control
An increase in summer travelers means more congestion on America’s already overcrowded roadways, which can make driving conditions tougher, anxiety and stress levels higher, and the likelihood of traffic accidents more probable.
Add to the mix out-of-school teen drivers with limited driving experience, as well as thunderstorms and unpredictable weather, and you have a situation that makes summertime driving anything but easy.
Controlling how many folks share the road with your fleet vehicles and when and where storms occur is, of course, completely beyond your control. What you can control is ensuring your drivers are knowledgeable about wet weather driving best practices and that their vehicle tires are properly maintained for better traction, handling and braking on slick and slippery roads.
Don’t Be a Statistic: Wet Weather Driving Tips
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), an average of 5.7 million vehicle accidents occur each year in the United States, with inclement weather one of the top causes and rain and wet pavement the leading culprit. According to DOT data, on average, accidents related to wet pavement account for a little more than 350,000 injuries and nearly 4,500 deaths every year.
To that end, let’s take a closer look at how experts say to best reduce those chances and improve driver and vehicle safety.
- Tire Treads—Tire treads must be deep enough to channel rainwater properly so your vehicle stays connected to the road. Fortunately, testing treads is a breeze. Simply place a quarter upside down in the grooves of the tire. If part of George Washington’s head is covered by tread, your tires are good to go.
- Tire Pressure—Proper inflation is key to maintaining traction on wet roadways. Tire pressure—including the spare—should be checked once a month, and drivers should be equipped with a tire gauge. Just make sure pressure is checked when tires are cold to get an accurate reading.
- Don’t Be Invisible—Turn on vehicle headlights. It’s the law in all states to turn headlights on when visibility is low, and many states require headlights be on when windshield wipers are in use.
ClearlySee the Road Ahead—Preparing your windshield witha glass treatment can increase water repellency and help make good windshield wipers more powerful. Use the defroster to keep front and rear windshields clear, and if a window should get foggy, open a window slightly and turn the defroster to a higher speed.
- Turn Cruise Control Off—Using cruise control in wet conditions increases the chances of losing control of the vehicle. If you start to hydroplane in cruise control, your vehicle actually gains speed. In a hydroplane scenario, remove your foot from the gas immediately. If you’re using cruise control, you won’t be able to do that. In either situation, don’t slam on the brakes – doing so could lock your tires and put you into a dangerous spin.
- Take it Easy and Don’t Get Too Close—As little as
one-halfan inch of water on the road means tires have to displace a gallon of water per second to keep tires connected to the road. Speed should correspond to the amount of water on the road to avoid hydroplaning. Keep it slow, allow ample stopping distance between cars and avoid hard braking and making sharp turns. Speeds as low as 35 mph can cause a vehicle to hydroplane, so keeping it slow and steady wins the race.
- Get a Grip—If hydroplaning occurs, steer straight ahead and do not slam on the brakes, as this could cause the vehicle to skid out of control. If the car starts to slide or veer off the road, gently steer in the direction you want to go. The key is “gently.” Sudden movements are dangerous when hydroplaning.
It probably won’t take long for your car to gain traction again, so stay calm and you’ll soon be back in control.
Remember, conditions are the most dangerous during the first 10 minutes of a downpour, according to Dr. Bill Van Tassel, AAA National Manager of Driver Training Programs. It is during this time that oil and debris rise to the road’s surface and then wash away, making for poor traction and increasing the chances of hydroplaning, skidding or completely sliding off the road.
Follow these tips and keep your fleet ready for any sudden change in weather, and you’ll be good to go.
Are you prepared for the accidents that could happen with inclement weather? Download our "Disaster Prepareness Checklist" so you can start creating a plan.