TAMPA, Fla. – Tropical Depression 9 is expected to intensify in the next 24 hours, and make landfall delivering strong winds and heavy rains to Florida, and causing dangerous driving conditions for motorists. AAA urges motorists to be cautious and avoid being on the roads during the storm if possible. Torrential rain from this tropical system will reduce visibility and flood streets, while strong winds could litter the roadway with debris.
While it isn’t advised, if you must get behind the wheel during the storm, it is very important to adjust your typical driving style. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorists driving during rainfall have a 70 percent higher chance of a crash than driving under clear dry conditions.
“Reduced visibility is a major concern, but so is rising water,” said Montrae Waiters, AAA spokeswoman, The Auto Club Group. “Whether it’s during or after the storm, If you see a flooded street, don’t drive through it! Driving through standing water is especially dangerous, because you never know just how deep the water is or what you are driving over. If your vehicle shuts down while in standing water, do not try to restart it. Restarting a vehicle in standing water can cause more water to enter the engine, leading to thousands of dollars in repairs.”
Tips for Driving on Wet Roads
- Check Tires: Make sure tires are properly inflated and have enough tread depth. This will allow the vehicle to have better traction and maneuverability on the road. Worn tires with little tread are much more likely to hydroplane on wet pavement, resulting in a loss of braking power and steering control. Check the tread depth of your car’s tires by inserting a quarter upside down into a tire groove. If you can see above Washington’s head at any point, it’s time for new tires.
- Slow Down and Leave Room: Slowing down during wet weather driving can be critical to reducing a car’s chance of hydroplaning, when the tires rise up on a film of water. With as little as ½ inch of water on the road, tires have to displace a gallon of water per second to keep the rubber meeting the road. Drivers should reduce their speed to correspond to the amount of water on the roadway. At speeds as low as 35 mph, new tires can still lose some contact with the roadway. Also, it is important for motorists to allow ample stopping distance between cars by increasing the following distance of the vehicle in front of them and beginning to slow down to stop for intersections, turns and other traffic early.
- Avoid Cruise Control: This feature works great in dry conditions, but when used in wet conditions, the chance of losing control of the vehicle can increase. To prevent loss of traction, the driver may need to reduce the car’s speed by lifting off the accelerator, which cannot be accomplished when cruise control is engaged.
- Rainy Conditions Can Cause Low Visibility: Turn on your headlights to help you see better and to allow other motorists to spot you better. Avoid using your high beams because you could blind other drivers and the extra light will reflect off the rain, causing more of a distraction for you.
- Visibility While Driving: If you can’t see the edges of the road or other vehicles at a safe distance while driving during wet weather, pull off 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.
- Avoid Standing Water and Flooded Roads at All Times: There is no way to tell how deep standing water is on a flooded road. Driving through standing water can cause a vehicle to stall and result in severe damage to the vehicle from:
- Flooding the engine
- Warping brake rotors
- Loss of power steering
- Short in electrical components
- If Your Vehicle Stalls in a Flooded Area: DO NOT remain in the car. Abandon it as soon as possible and seek higher ground. Flood waters can elevate quickly, sweeping away the vehicle and its occupants.
- Traffic Signal Blackout: If traffic signal lights are not working due to power failure, you must stop at the intersection and then proceed when you know other turning and approaching vehicles, bicycles, or pedestrians have stopped. A blacked-out traffic signal works the same as a four-way stop intersection.
Safety Tips for Driving in Strong Winds
- Firmly grip the steering wheel: Know your vehicle, light cars, vans and other “boxy” vehicles are more likely to be blown by strong gusts of wind.
- Anticipate gusts: Pay attention when driving through areas prone to strong winds or when weather reports forecast severe weather.
- Increase space between your vehicle and other motorists: Be aware of vans, recreational vehicles and cars pulling trailers which may be adversely affected by the wind.