April showers bring May flowers - and wet roads - to our cities. Here in the St. Louis area, we get everything from a light drizzle to pounding downpours that result in flooded roads. To stay safe while driving in springtime's hazardous weather, follow these tips for before and during your trip.
BEFORE YOU DRIVE
Check road status. If flooding is common or likely in the area where you're traveling, be sure to check road closure status before you start your trip. Each state's Department of Transportation maintains interactive maps with road closures in Illinois and Missouri.
Check your windshield wipers. It's important to ensure you'll have good visibility if it starts to rain. Check each wiper for cracked rubber and replace them every 6-12 months to ensure they'll continue to clear your line of vision so you can avoid a potential car crash.
Check your tire treads. Tires with proper tread depth can stop faster on wet pavement. Replace worn-down tires regularly to ensure proper braking, which can help you avoid a rear-end accident on wet roads.
Put on your seatbelt. Not only is this a Missouri and Illinois state law, but it will also protect you during a car crash. Each person in your vehicle must have a seat belt and children should be secured in the appropriate restraint system for their weight and age.
Use your headlights. Headlights improve your ability to see ahead of you, but they also help the drivers around you see your vehicle, which can help you both avoid a collision. In both Missouri and Illinois, if you're using your windshield wipers, by law, you must also have your headlights turned on.
DRIVING IN THE RAIN
Slow down. You probably automatically do this when driving in icy or snowy weather, but you should also slow down by 5-10 MPH when driving in the rain. Braking time increases when pavement is wet, so drive a little slower and leave more room between you and the car ahead of you to avoid car accidents.
Watch out for hydroplaning. Hydroplaning is when your tires come off the ground and glide on the layer of water and oil on the road's surface. This is more likely to happen at higher speeds, so reducing your speed can help you avoid hydroplaning. If you do hydroplane, take your foot off the gas and slowly apply the brake. Don't attempt to turn rapidly or slam on the brakes as this can make it harder to gain control. Once you feel your car gain traction, you can steer and drive normally again.
Never drive through a flooded area. You may have checked for road closures before you left, or you may have forgotten. Either way, if you come across a flooded roadway - whether it has closed signs or not - do not try to drive across. It's difficult to determine the depth of the water on the road and it's likely deeper than it looks. Moving water may sweep your car away, and even seemingly shallow water can cause your car engine to shut off, leaving you stranded in a dangerous situation.
DRIVING DURING A STORM
Pull over if you need to. If the speed of the rain suddenly increases or visibility decreases, pull off at a safe point on the roadway. Ensure you'll be out of the way of moving traffic, avoid large puddles and consider turning on your hazard lights. Heavy rain decreases visibility and quickly increases water on the roadway, increasing your chances of hydroplaning or getting into an accident.
Listen to a local radio station. Local stations will have traffic and storm updates that could be critical to the safety of you and your passengers. Keep it on a low volume to keep your focus on the road, but listen up for flood reports, weather watches and warnings, and car accidents that may be in your path.
Take shelter during hail storms and tornado warnings. During a hailstorm, sheltering your vehicle under an overpass or covered area can help keep you safe. During a tornado, it is important to exit your car and find a safe structure to protect yourself from flying debris. Never attempt to outrun a tornado in your vehicle.
Increase your awareness and use these guidelines to keep yourself safe while driving in inclement spring weather. If you do end up in a car accident because of someone else's negligence, contact us for a free consultation or call us at 314.932.1066. The Eason Law Firm has experience representing the victims of motor vehicle crashes and can make sure you get the settlement you deserve.