Ready for the big thaw? While many areas of the country got more than they bargained for in terms of rain and snow, that can mean only one thing for spring driving conditions: it’s time to get ready for mud and muck and slush and standing water.
Yep, just when you thought it was safe to go back on the roads now that the ice and snow have melted, there are new challenges to deal with. In fact, wet pavement contributes to almost 1.2 million car accidents each year.
So, to help you handle the hazards you might encounter on the road this season, here are 5 spring driving tips to follow.
1. Watch for standing water
When snow melts all at once, drains can be maxed out, leaving pools of standing water on the road. Avoid the puddle if you can. If there’s no way to safely switch lanes, try to drive through it very slowly so you don’t slide. You also never know what’s under the water, be it debris or even a pothole, which makes it extra important to use caution. The other major danger of standing water? Hydroplaning, which occurs when your tires are riding on top of the puddle, rather than gripping the road. Your main defense is to go slow. Really slow.
2. Beware sluggish slush
Believe it or not, slush can be almost as tricky as ice, but in the opposite way. While ice causes your car to slide, slush can grab your tires and cause resistance or make it challenging to switch lanes. Drive extra slowly in and around slush.
3. Mind the mud
When it’s raining or snow is melting, the road can end up being muddy and slick, especially as more cars travel over it. Steer and brake very carefully when there’s mud on the road to avoid sliding. If you do start to slide, treat it as you would an ice slide and turn your car in the direction of the slide, slowly pumping your brakes. If you get stuck in the mud, treat is as you would a car stuck in the snow.
4. Be cautious about muck splashing on your windshield
That standing water and slush that you, you careful driver, just drove slowly through? Unfortunately not everyone is as thoughtful as you, and if a careless driver careens through it at top speed, it could splash up, obscuring your vision. If that happens, turn on your windshield wipers to pilot the car to a safe spot until you can properly clean your windows. Another trick to try is starting your windshield wipers before your car gets sprayed so they can go to work on little spots, which are easier to handle than an entire windshield.
5. Handle heavy rains
When you’re driving, the best offense is a good defense. Before you go out in spring driving conditions, make sure that your windshield wipers are new and that you have ample windshield wiper fluid. Then make sure your tires are in good condition, meaning properly filled (which you can check at a gas station) and with enough tread. You’ll need to replace them when they get down to at least 4/32″ (3mm) because you’re more apt to hydroplane if rain can’t flow through the grooves.
Then, make sure that you’re driving slowly and maintaining a safe distance from the car in front of you — experts recommend a cushion of at least 6 seconds. If the rain is completely obscuring your windshield, you’ll want to pull over to a safe place if you can.