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Now that the rains have come, it is time to pay closer attention to how we drive everyday. Everyone knows that the first rain is the most dangerous because oil, dirt, and debris in the road gets slick and dangerous, but it is important to realize those dangerous don’t go away once you get used to driving in the rain.

Three men are at UC Davis after they slammed into a tree in Sacramento. And of course the big pile-up on I-505 that claimed the life of James Cain is something right out of a horror story. It began when Cain’s vehicle swerved into the guardrail for an unknown reason. Afterward, a car traveled across all lanes of the highway after swerving into the guardrail to avoid Cain, as did a tractor trailer. Another car was unable to avoid colliding with Cain and knocked his vehicle onto it’s right side. A second big rig followed and swerved to the left to avoid Cain, but struck the exposed roof of Cain’s Jeep as it passed and caused Cain’s fatal injuries.

Storms cause three main problems for drivers. 1) The clouds make it much darker and the water makes it hard to see clearly. To counteract these effects, turn on your headlights. Remember the law states that if your windshield wipers are on, your headlights must be on as well. It won’t help you see what is in front of you that much better (sometimes it even makes it worse, like in fog), but it’s true purpose is to make it easier for other vehicles to see you. When I am driving on the road in a storm and I can’t see very well in front of me, I pay close attention to the movements the car in front of me is making. If there is no car in front of me, I tend to slow down and focus on the reflectors on the road.

Something that irritates me to no end is when there are no reflectors on the lines separating traffic going in the same direction, but only on the line separating the different directions. It is bad because I focus on those reflectors to alert me if the lane is going to veer or curve, but if I am watching the inside line, the headlights from oncoming traffic blind me. Any tips on how to get past this problem?

2) The road is wet. Traction is very important for any vehicle. It is what makes you go and what makes you stop. When starting to move forward on a wet road, don’t push the gas too hard, you can lose control. Also, be sure to leave a bigger following distance than normal because it will take longer for your vehicle to stop in the rain and if you have to slam the brakes, you might not stop at all, just slide right into the car in front of you. I know that when you leave a bigger following distance, people assume they can cut you off, and I gotta tell you, I’ve had a lot of close calls. I don’t like that people try to fit their vehicle into spaces that aren’t big enough for everyone to feel comfortable with the lane change, but they do it anyway. Nowadays I just take my foot off the gas and back off, creating my following space so that I can feel safe.

3) People tend to drive faster than appropriate. In highschool I drove my mother’s minivan into school one morning. I remember it was the first time I was driving by myself in the rain. I was going 35 mph down the street in front of my school. That street is actually a main road and has a speed limit of 45 mph except when students are present (I had a zero period class, so no kids were around). Suddenly a little white sports car gets out from behind me, zooms up real fast, and gets in front of me. I get into the parking lot just as he and his mom are switching places and it turns out to be a friend of mine. He teased me mercilessly all day long saying I drove 10 mph down the road. At the time I just let them laugh and said that it was better than going 60 mph, but I also kept justifying it in my head by telling myself it was raining.

Face it, when it’s raining and yucky out, people don’t want to be driving. They want to get to their destination faster and get out of the rain. They want to be home where they can get warm and curl up with a good computer (Book? What’s a book? lol). But something many people and most kids don’t understand is that the speed limit is the fastest speed allowable under PERFECT conditions. When it is raining and very dangerous to be flying down the freeway at 60 mph, you could very well get ticketed.

I know it’s hard to not feel the pressure to go as fast or faster than those around you, but you should NEVER drive faster than what you feel is SAFE! (Whether or not it’s raining) Remember that going too slow can also be dangerous. The best way to get home safely is by moving with the flow of traffic, keeping a good following distance, and having your lights on.

Any other tips for driving in the rain? I can use all the help I can get. I am just not comfortable with driving in bad weather. I am just thankful I don’t have to drive in snow! What about you?

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