(LOS ANGELES, Jan. 20, 2010) — El Nino is here and heavier rain is expected today and later this week. The Automobile Club of Southern California is urging Southland motorists to slow down and allow more space between vehicles while driving on slick roads and freeways. In mountain areas, motorists should drive cautiously due to sleet and snowy conditions.
"If you don’t need to be out on the road, don’t be. Those who must drive should watch for flooded areas on roads and on the freeways," said Steve Mazor, manager of the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center in Diamond Bar. "Drivers should also watch for debris and disabled vehicles in reduced visibility conditions.”
To avoid crashes, the Auto Club recommends:
- S-l-o-w 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, tuning the radio, fumbling with CDs or applying makeup while driving, particularly in the rain. If necessary to engage in these activities, pull over and stop in a safe place. If not stopped, cell phone use is allowed using a hands-free device or if calling 9-1-1 for an emergency.
- Stay informed.
Tune into radio and television weather reports to know where traffic congestion or crashes might be located. If possible, avoid these areas.
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 the recommended inflation level. 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.
- Make sure windshield wiper blades are in good condition.
Streaks or skipping on the vehicle's windshield are signs of worn wiper blades. Inspect wipers once a month and check washer solvent reservoir to ensure it's full. Use windshield washer fluid, and not water, since it is formulated to cut through oils that may get splashed on the windshield and will not harm paint.
- Check brakes periodically.
After driving through a puddle, check that brakes are working properly by tapping them gently a few times.
- Use headlights and windshield defroster.
Driving in the 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.