How to Keep Summer Squalls from Wrecking Your Ride
By Diane Tait
|Image courtesy of wikimedia|
Now that summer is here in north Florida, that means one thing: Summer squalls. Those of you who moved to Florida from other parts of the country have no doubt had to contend with driving in the rain. The difference is when you’re forced to deal with a full on, no-holds-barred thunderstorm here, don’t think rain, think free car wash. That’s because rain squalls in Florida are as fierce as they are prevalent. The rain that comes down on an almost daily basis in the Jacksonville area falls from the sky in torrents that can make windshield wipers nearly useless and visibility nearly zero. That’s why more auto accidents happen in the summer in Florida than in any other part of the country. If you want to keep summer squalls from wrecking your ride and causing your auto insurance rates to rise, here are some helpful hints.
How well is your car maintained?
When the rain comes down in sheets and the wind is gusting hard, this is the last place to figure out you need new windshield wipers or a front-end alignment. It’s also the worst possible moment to think about replacing those bald tires. Even new radials have difficulty dealing with water that ponds on road surfaces when the rain is coming down in buckets. If your tires are bald, or nearly bald, you’re simply asking for trouble. The next puddle you hit could be your last. All it takes for a car to hydroplane is ¼ inch of water. Once your tires lose contact with the roadway, you run the risk of losing control of your vehicle as soon as you hit a curve or step on the brakes. If your alignment is off, this is another invitation for disaster on the road.
Then there’s your windshield wipers. If your wipers chatter or streak even when there is plenty of water on the windshield, it’s past the time they were replaced. When you consider that wiper blades only run about $20, this is a small price to pay for safety. In Florida, you really should replace your blades every two years, just to be on the safe side.
Slow down, you drive too fast.
|I,age courtesy of Public Domain Pictures|
They say speed kills. While this maxim is true, it is doubly so when it rains. Even if the speed limit reads 65 MPH, that only means this is the safe and legal speed limit to drive when weather permits. When it’s raining cats and dogs, driving the speed limit can quickly become a highway to the danger zone. The problem is, most drivers honestly don’t know how fast is too fast when they get caught in an afternoon gully washer. They either drive too fast, or they slow down to a crawl, which can be just as dangerous when visibility is reduced.
In 2016, 3,091 people died in traffic accidents in Florida, the highest level since 2007. While they weren’t all weather related, you can bet a significant percentage of them were. The problem when people drive in the rain is they fail to realize how long it takes a vehicle to brake on a wet road. Add to this the tendency of many drivers to leave too little space between their vehicle and the one ahead of theirs and this is also a recipe for disaster.
Another killer most people forget about when they drive in the rain are tractor trailers. If you think you have problems coming to a stop in the rain, just think of how much tougher this is for a trucker driving a loaded semi. DOT statistics state that wile 4% of registered vehicles are trucks, yet they are involved in 9% of accidents. Since tractor trailers can weigh as much as thirty times as much as a typical car, is it any wonder that when it rains, these juggernauts can become a hazard to other drivers.
While it’s true that all drivers need to slow down and provide more leeway between themselves and other motorists, that doesn’t mean you should come to a halt unless you pull to the side of the road. It’s recommended that you slow down by a third when it rains, but you need to reduce your speed with caution, keeping your eyes on traffic ahead and behind. If you slow down too fast, you could easily wind up being rear ended. This can lead to a monster pileup as other cars around you crash as well. Two ways to make this less likely to occur is to give the driver in front of you plenty of space and to turn on your headlights.
Many drivers neglect to put their headlights on when it rains. This can easily lead to an accident, since it’s extremely difficult to see cars when the rain is pouring down. Even when visibility is practically nil, cars with their headlights on are easy to see. Just make sure you only use your low beams. High beams and/or fog lights will only serve to blind other drivers. Also, do NOT turn on your hazard lights. Not only do they fail to increase your vehicle’s visibility in a rainstorm, it’s also illegal to turn them on unless your car is disabled. In Florida, you can even be fined $129 for driving with your hazard lights on.
Put the cellphone down!
|Image courtesy of Free Stock Photos|
Last but not least, here’s the mother of all road hazards: Cellphones. Like it or not, talking on the phone or texting is a distraction that all prudent drivers should avoid. Even when the weather is perfect, using a cellphone while driving makes it much more likely that you’ll be involved in an accident. Doing so in the rain is like asking for trouble.
More importantly, since 2013, Florida has had laws on the books banning texting while driving.
Does this mean you’ll get pulled over in the event a police officer sees you texting? No. However, if an accident should occur and it’s revealed you were texting while driving, you will be assessed an additional six points on any moving violation issued. More important is the statistics reported by the National Safety Commission, that indicated that 42% of fatal car crashes involved drivers who were using their cellphones at the time of the accident. If you must use your cellphone while driving, use a hand’s-free system and never text while behind the wheel. Your life could depend on it.
As for the other factors that can keep you safe when the Sunshine State turns into the Sun Shower State, make sure your driving and car maintenance habits are up to snuff if you wish to keep those all-too-frequent summer squalls from wrecking your ride.
Diane Tait owns A&B Insurance in Jacksonville, Florida. If you are looking for great auto insurance at affordable rates, give her a call at 904-388-6446 today.