(LOS ANGELES, Oct. 4, 2011) — The first storms of the season are rolling into Southern California this week bringing up to an inch and a half of rain and cold temperatures, according to the weather service. Whether commuting, traveling to medical appointments or running errands, the Automobile Club of Southern California is urging Southland motorists to slow down and allow extra space between vehicles while driving on wet roads and freeways.
"Slippery roads and cold weather spell increased crash risk," said Steve Mazor, manager of the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center. "As best they can, drivers should also scan the roadways and stay away and look out for disabled vehicles in reduced visibility conditions. The Auto Club also recommends that motorists turn on their vehicle's headlights so they can see and be seen by other drivers.”
To avoid crashes, the Auto Club recommends:
Slow down. Motorists should drive slowly, particularly through puddles. Driving at slower speeds also helps drivers be prepared for sudden stops due to debris, and other hazards associated with wet-weather driving.
Keep your distance/Avoid skids. A car needs two to three times more stopping distance on wet pavement, so allow extra following distance between cars. Sudden braking often leads to skids. Extra distance provides a buffer zone in case of skids. If the car skids and control is lost, do not slam on the brakes. Instead apply the brakes with a steady, light but firm pressure. Remember to steer in the direction the car is sliding. When traction is regained, steering control will return. For cars equipped with anti-lock brakes, drivers should apply heavy steady pressure, but not pump the brakes.
Use center lanes. When driving during heavy rain, use center lanes of the road (without straddling the yellow line). Avoid outside lanes where water collects at curbside.
Avoid distractions. Motorists are advised to avoid eating, drinking, cellular phone use, text-ing, fumbling with CDs or applying makeup while driving, particularly in the rain. If it's necessary to engage in these activities, pull over and stop in a safe place.
Stay informed. Tune into radio and television weather reports to know where traffic congestion or crashes might be located. If possible, avoid these areas.
Watch for potholes. Leave plenty of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Alert drivers have plenty of time to avoid potholes. Before swerving around a pothole, be sure to check surrounding traffic to determine if it’s safe to change lanes.
Maintain a safe speed. If a pothole cannot be avoided, slow down, if possible. Hitting a pothole at high speed increases the chance of damage to tires, wheels, shocks, struts, springs or suspension components. High speed also increases the chance of losing control of the vehicle, especially if a series of potholes occurs on a curved or uneven roadway. When driving over more than one pothole, reduce vehicle speed and hold the steering wheel firmly to avoid losing control.
Don’t brake directly over a pothole. Applying brakes causes the car’s weight to shift to the front of the vehicle and can increase damage from the impact.
Beware of pooled water on the road. It may be concealing a deep pothole. “Hitting even one severe pothole could alter the alignment of a wheel from suspension damage resulting in uneven tire wear. Uneven and premature tire wear means the tire will need to be replaced sooner than necessary and increase fuel consumption at needless expense,” said Mazor.
Also, car maintenance needs increase during wet weather. Motorists are advised to follow this checklist:
Check tires. Make sure tires are in good condition and are at recommended inflation. Driving with bald tires on a slippery surface is a major factor in skidding. Tires should have at least 1/32nd of an inch tread depth at any two adjacent grooves, the minimum allowable by law. Driving on tires that are over inflated or under inflated is also extremely dangerous on wet pavement.
Check windshield wiper blades. Streaks or skipping on the windshield are signs of worn wiper blades. Inspect wipers monthly and check washer solvent reservoir to ensure it's full. Use windshield washer fluid, not water, since it’s formulated to cut through oils that may get splashed on the windshield and won’t harm vehicle paint.
Check brakes periodically. After driving through puddles, check that brakes by tapping them gently a few times.
Use headlights and windshield defroster. Driving in rain means reduced visibility. The Auto Club recommends that motorists turn on the vehicle's headlights so they can see and be seen. Turning on the defroster helps keep the inside of the windshield clear of moisture.