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Safety tips for driving in wet weather

Published Sep. 13, 2014

Summer sure has brought lots of heavy rain. Here are tips for keeping cars where they belong — on the road and out of the ditch — when driving in pouring rain:

Slow down: Driving more slowly makes it easier to stop suddenly, whether it's in response to another car losing control or debris in the road.

Keep your distance: On wet pavement, a car needs two to three times the distance to stop, compared to dry conditions. If possible, don't use the brakes to slow down, especially if you don't have antilock brakes. Take your foot off the gas pedal to decelerate.

Avoid skids: If you have to stop suddenly, apply the brakes with steady pressure. Keep your steering wheel straight, if possible. If the car skids, steer in the same direction the car is sliding.

Avoid driving through water: If you can't see the ground through moving water, your car could be swept off the road. If there's a puddle, drive slowly. If the water comes up to the bottom of the doors, turn around. High water can damage electronics in cars.

If you have to drive through water, dry your brakes off by lightly pressing the brake pedal while you move forward slowly, until you feel them working again. The friction will generate heat and dry off the pads.

Follow the leader: If you must drive through standing water, take the path of a car ahead of you. Some of the water might have pushed aside, so you should have less water to navigate through. You can also see ahead of time how deep the water level is.

Stay clear of large trucks or buses: Sprays and splashes created by their large tires can fall onto your windshield, sending your visibility to zero. If you have to pass them, do so quickly but safely.

Use center lanes: Drive closer to the center of the road in heavy rain, without straddling the yellow line. Outside lanes tend to accumulate more water.

Use headlights: Rain reduces visibility. Driving with the headlights on improves a driver's ability to see and be seen.

Don't use hazard lights: It's against Florida law to turn on the flashers when you're moving (except for when you're in a funeral procession). They're only for an emergency, or when the car is disabled on the side of the road.

Keep this in mind: In some cars, the turn and brake lights don't work or are hard to see when the hazard lights are on. If you are driving with your flashers, the car behind you might not see that you've slowed down and might collide with you.

If visibility is too low, safely pull over as far off the road as possible, or stop in a parking lot, and wait for the storm to pass.

Avoid distractions: Leave the coffee in its cup holder and save the burger for when you're parked. And put down that cellphone. (Remember, it's illegal in Florida to text while you're driving.) The negative effects of distracting behaviors are amplified when driving in wet weather.

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Stay informed: Tune in to weather and traffic reports, and use the information to avoid problem areas.

Maintain your car: Make sure your wiper blades are not brittle, and ensure that your tires are in good shape and properly inflated.