Driving in Heavy Rain Conditions

The days long deluge of rain along the U.S. Gulf Coast has soaked Southeastern states from Louisiana to Florida, bringing flash floods and additional risks for drivers maneuvering through the soaking rain. All motorists have to deal with driving in the rain from time to time and there are some do’s and don’ts that may surprise you.

In Florida, motorists caught in a downpour can turn on their headlights and set their windshield wipers on the fastest setting possible, but it’s illegal for them to drive with their hazard lights blazing.

“Some motorists may think hazard lights make them more visible in the rain,” said Brett Vigodsky, a personal injury attorney with Levin, Papantonio Law Firm in Pensacola. “Florida statues say flashing lights are prohibited on vehicles except as a means of indicating a turn, lane change, or that the vehicle is lawfully stopped or disabled on the highway.”

During inclement weather, Florida State troopers warn drivers not to stop on a freeway or heavily traveled road out of fear the vehicle could become the first link in a chain-reaction collision.

Police say if you must pull off the road, signal, then carefully pull off as far as possible. Only after parking should drivers then turn on their hazard lights.

Other safety tips include reducing distractions. Turn off your radio and cell phone. Changing stations or checking your cell phone can result in a momentary distraction that leads to a life-changing accident. Texting and driving, checking emails, playing games, or simply talking on the phone or to other passengers can all be dangerous distractions.

“Your full attention is required when you’re behind the wheel,” advised Vigodsky. “The average text takes your eyes off the road for nearly five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that’s like driving an entire football field blindfolded.”

Police also advise motorists driving in the rain to buckle up, slow down, use wipers and defrosters, watch out for other drivers, brake early, turn their headlights on low, and be patient.

Of course, the best way to prevent an accident on a wet road is to not be there in the first place. Police warn motorists to stay put if they can and avoid driving in heavy storms. The roads will remain slick for some time after a storm passes and drivers should slow down to avoid hydroplaning.

Standing water is another concern. Police say never drive through flooded areas, even if you are familiar with the roads. What you can’t see beneath the water, may be a washed out road and it’s better to “turn around; don’t drown.”