Now that summer is officially over, the fall equinox will certainly bring increased days of wet weather. According to AAA, wet pavement is a contributing factor to nearly 1.2 million traffic accidents each year. And data from the Federal Highway Association asserts that rain and wet pavement account for the majority of fatalities over any other weather-related condition. Now is a perfect time – while weather conditions are still fairly mild across the nation – for fleet managers to remind their drivers of the dangers of wet weather driving. Follow this helpful guide for some wet-weather driver training tips to keep drivers and vehicles safer on wet roads.
It’s often said that driver safety begins before getting behind the wheel. Whether or not required by law, fleet drivers should conduct an inspection of their fleet vehicle before driving. This is to make certain that the vehicle is ready to perform optimally and that it’s compliant to regulations. But this inspection becomes even more important during adverse weather. AAA suggests that a goal for a wet-weather inspection is to ensure that the driver and vehicle can, “see and be seen.”
Wet Weather Vehicle Inspection
- Ensure windshield wipers are in good working order and that they’re not leaving any streaks that may impede the driver’s vision.
- Inspect running lights, brake lights, taillights, and headlights to ensure they are working and clearly visible.
- Check for adequate tread depth and tire pressure. Measuring tread depth can be accomplished easily by using a quarter. If, after inserting the coin into the tread of the tire, the top of Washington’s head is visible, it’s time to replace the tires (anything under 2/32” requires replacement). For more information on checking tread depth and tire pressure, click here.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
During the first few minutes of a rainstorm, rainwater can mix with oil residue on the road to create very slippery conditions causing the vehicle to aquaplane. And just a thin layer (1/10”) of water between the tire and the pavement can cause a vehicle to hydroplane. Both of these conditions may result in a loss of control of the vehicle. Slowing down and leaving plenty of space between vehicles is key to keeping the rubber on the road. Literally.
Keeping a vehicle from aquaplaning or hydroplaning during rain depends on the friction between the tire and the pavement. Sudden jerks of the steering wheel can disrupt this friction and reduce the ability to steer or brake. Careful and measured movements of the wheel will give you the best chance of avoiding loss of control during wet weather. AAA recommends steering into the tracks created by the motorist in front. The water displaced by their tires leaves less water to displace thereby increasing traction and decreasing the chance of hydroplaning. For additional info and methods of steering through a loss of traction, click here.
As with sudden changes in direction, sudden and hard applications to the brakes may cause the tires to lose traction. Furthermore, when brakes become wet, they may operate differently than in dryer conditions. They may pull in one direction or lock up causing the vehicle to skid. If this happens, let off the brakes and then reapply pressure gently or tap them lightly. The friction will dry them quickly and they should quickly begin to work properly again. For more information on braking during wet weather, click here.
AAA strongly advises against using cruise control at all during wet weather. This is because avoiding a skid or hydroplaning sometimes requires that a driver lift off the accelerator rather than apply the brakes. Furthermore, when braking is needed, the vehicle begins to slow at the moment the foot leaves the accelerator. This very brief moment of slowing before braking may provide the crucial extra moment needed to avoid a loss of traction or collision.
Stay Prepared and Keep a Cool Head
Helping fleet drivers to stay mentally prepared and ready to calmly respond during a crisis is key. Skidding, sliding, and hydroplaning are all possible during wet weather driving conditions. Proper training along with calm and measured responses will keep fleet vehicles and drivers safer during wet weather. So, as fall wet weather approaches, make sure to provide fleet drivers the tools and training needed to keep the rubber side down and the shiny side up.