Safe winter driving: Driving in the rain

16 Jun 15

With the change of season comes the change of wardrobe, a change of food and also the change of driving conditions. But are you ready to change your driving to suit the winter weather?

The first point of safe driving is to ensure your vehicle is in excellent operating condition to handle more challenging drives. If you're uncertain whether a car will be up to the job, a CarHistory Report can shed some light onto the background of a used car to make sure you have the right vehicle whatever the weather.

In your report you'll find all sorts of important information such as your chosen car's ANCAP safety rating, in addition to any insurance claims that could denote an accident in the past. Click here to take a look at a sample report.

Once you're sure you've found the right vehicle for the job, there are also several ways to ensure safer winter journeys. 

Driving in the rain 

With unpredictable storms known to target certain areas of the country, drivers need to take definite precautions when the weather takes a turn for the wet. The first thing to do is to reduce your speed - the posted speed limit signs are the estimated limit for good conditions only, advises the Australian Federal Police1

By increasing your following distance from the recommended "three second rule" to another second or two during the rain, you give yourself more time to brake safely, which could take longer with traction impacted by surface water.

Particularly heavy rain can severely impede on your visibility, meaning you may not spot hazards as effectively as you would in clear conditions 

What should I do if I start to hydroplane?

Hydroplaning describes the phenomenon whereby the front tyres lose traction, rendering the car's steering mechanism ineffective. It usually occurs when there is a large amount of surface water collected on the road, and when it happens, it can be a rather startling event. 

To regain control, it's important to stay calm and not overreact. Instead, if you feel you've lost traction, do not attempt to brake suddenly, as it could cause the back wheels to lock up and the car to spin out. 

Steer the car in the desired direction and take your foot off the accelerator - ABC News explains you can then gently begin to apply the brakes once more once you feel the road back under the front tyres2.

One of the best ways to avoid hydroplaning in the first place is to reduce your speed and ensure that the tread on your tyres is sufficient. The RACQ reminds us that our tyres legally need at least 1.5 millimetres tread depth to be considered roadworthy3​.

Without this tread depth, traction is reduced considerably, meaning that safe handling is compromised. 

1Australian Federal Police, Inclement weather driving. Accessed May 28, 2015. 

2ABC News, What to Do When Your Car Hydroplanes [video]. Accessed May 28, 2015. 

3​RACQ, RACQ tyre fact sheet. Accessed  May 28, 2015.