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Don't Let Summer Showers Fool You

Don't Let Summer Showers Fool You

Read this short scenario and see if you can figure out what the driver is doing wrong.

Our driver is cruising along the road on a hot day when it starts to rain. It has been weeks since it rained, and based on the forecast this will be a very short shower. So our driver simply leaves the vehicle on cruise control, knowing the rain won't continue long enough to require any adjustments in speed or following distance.

First problem: It's already raining and you haven't adjusted your driving. On any wet roadway, there is always the danger that your tires could lose contact with the pavement. This is called hydroplaning. The faster you drive, the more likely you are to hydroplane. When that happens, you will lose much of your control of your steering and braking. In fact, braking while hydroplaning could well send you into a skid. Your best defense is to adjust your driving-and by that we mean, slow down-the minute the first drop falls.

Second problem: You may think a summer rain is somehow less of a threat to drivers than cool-weather rains. But in summer heat, oil and grease build up on road surfaces day after day. A good rain can wash a lot of the residue away, but if it's been a while since the last rain, it can take up to an hour to do the job. In the meantime, especially in the first minutes of a summer rain, that oil slick on the roadway can make it extremely slippery.

Third problem: Cruise control. If you start to hydroplane while you're on cruise control, the situation can confuse the cruise system and cause it to actually increase your speed-and the last thing you need in a hydroplane is more speed. So, when it starts to rain after a dry spell:

  • Adjust immediately.
  • Slow down.
  • Increase your following distance to at least 8 seconds.
  • If your cruise control is on, turn it off.