A change in road conditions requires you to adapt your driving behavior to suit, ensuring the inputs you make to your vehicle’s controls are right for the circumstances. During fall, the roads we drive are naturally much wetter and therefore offer less traction. This means we’re far less likely to get away with the ham-handed driving habits we might employ during the drier months of the year.
Fortunately, the key to driving safely when the weather takes a turn for the worst is as simple as being much smoother in every action you take. Here are several of the most important driving practices you should be mindful of this fall.
Being able to accelerate in a safe and controlled manner is an important driving skill, but one you’re usually able to get away with not using when the asphalt is dry. This is because modern tires do a pretty good job of ensuring you have as much traction available as is physically possible.
Trouble arises when the asphalt is wet as your vehicles tires will not enjoy the same levels of grip as they do on dry surfaces. Modern safety aids such as electronic traction control and driving stability control have progressed to the extent that your vehicle is able to actively decide how much acceleration it’s willing to provide based upon the grip available. But not all cars and trucks come fitted with such systems, resulting in tires that will readily spin at the first chance they get.
- Use measured, precise acceleration
The key is to only accelerate as quickly as you need to by limiting the amount of accelerator pedal travel you use. In addition, smoothly increasing the pressure you apply to the accelerator pedal will also result in smooth acceleration with no surprises, even on the most slippery of surfaces.
Calculating braking distances
Poor weather and sub-optimal road conditions also have a direct impact on the distance your vehicle will require to come to a complete stop when braking. This can come as a surprise to motorists who rarely drive when it’s raining, or live in areas which don’t experience much rainfall during the drier months of the year.
The general rule of thumb is your braking distances are effectively doubled in wet weather, requiring much more available road than you would in the dry.
- Increase your distance
For this reason, you should double the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front, ensuring that you will be able to come to a stop in time in the event that you are required to perform an emergency braking procedure.
An easy way to remember this important aspect of wet weather driving is by simply following the 4-second rule: leave 4 seconds of distance between your vehicle and the car ahead of you.
Braking and decelerating smoothly
The second aspect of effective and controlled braking requires precise modulation of the brake pedal. ABS is fitted to most modern vehicles which will prevent your tires from skidding during heavy braking, but if possible, activating ABS should be avoided altogether through proper observation and leaving yourself with enough distance so you can brake as smoothly as possible.
- Squeeze the brake pedal
Maintaining traction and complete control of your vehicle when slowing down on wet road surfaces requires you to squeeze the brake pedal rather than stamp on it. This process will cause a gradual weight transfer to your front wheels for maximum grip, reducing the likelihood of a loss of control.
Steering and cornering smoothly
The quality of your steering is the final piece of the puzzle in maintaining maximum traction in wet weather. Just as with braking and accelerating, your steering inputs should be precise and controlled, rewarding you and your passengers with the smoothest and safest possible driving experience.
You should always try to brake and steer as separate actions to reduce the likelihood of overwhelming your tires and exceeding their levels of grip for the given surface. Accelerating and providing a significant amount of steering input should also be kept to a minimum in front-wheel-drive cars for maximum control.
- Effective cornering
Rather than attempting to wrestle with the steering wheel or make jerky movements when you wish to change direction, slowly feed in a positive and precise amount of steering input in the desired direction of travel.
From there, simply hold that position until the corner is complete or make adjustments as required for corners with an increasing or decreasing radius.
Driving during fall and the presence of inclement weather conditions don’t need to be difficult. The key is to do everything in your ability to prevent unsettling your vehicle, whether you’re accelerating, braking or steering.
Wet road surfaces simply require a little more care and attention than their warm, dry counterparts, which in turn will reward you with a safe and enjoyable drive.