Tips for Driving Safely in the Rain

Driving in the rain presents unique challenges and requires special precautions. Wet roads can be slippery, reducing your vehicle’s traction and increasing stopping distances.

At The Wiser Driver Driving School, we believe in sharing practical advice to help you stay safe. Here are essential tips to prepare and navigate the roads when it’s pouring.

How to Prepare Before Driving in the Rain

Checking Your Tires

Your tires are your direct contact with the road, and their condition heavily influences your safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), insufficient tire tread can contribute significantly to hydroplaning. Use a quarter to check your tire tread: insert it into the tread groove with Washington’s head upside down. If the top of his head is visible, it’s time to replace your tires. Also, check tire pressure. Under-inflated tires can reduce traction, making it harder to control your vehicle. Aim to check the tire pressure at least once a month and keep it at the recommended levels found in your vehicle manual.

Testing Wipers and Lights

Non-functional wipers or lights are accidents waiting to happen during heavy rain. Replace wiper blades at least once a year or when they start to leave streaks. Functional wipers ensure you maintain a clear view of the road. Additionally, verify that all exterior lights, including headlights, taillights, and brake lights, are operational. They are vital for your visibility and for letting other drivers see you. Faulty lighting systems are a common cause of road accidents during poor weather conditions.

Filling Windshield Washer Fluid

Visibility is paramount when driving in the rain. Make sure your windshield washer fluid is topped up before heading out into rainy conditions. This fluid helps clear away dirt, grime, and streaks that rainwater can leave on the windshield. Invest in fluid that includes de-icing properties if you drive in colder areas to prevent it from freezing.

Additional Tips:

Pro Tip - Always carry an emergency kit in your car, including a flashlight, blanket, and first aid supplies.
  • Replace worn tires: Nearly 75% of weather-related car accidents happen on wet pavement.

  • Avoid using cruise control: It can cause loss of control on slippery surfaces.

  • Increase following distance: Double the usual space between your vehicle and the one ahead.

Preparedness can significantly reduce the risks associated with driving in the rain. Always ensure that your vehicle is equipped and well-maintained to face wet conditions. For more detailed advice on handling adverse weather, check out our safe driving in bad weather post.

How to Drive Safely When It’s Raining

When you’re already on the road and the rain starts, maintaining safety becomes even more critical. Here’s how you can navigate wet conditions effectively.

Maintaining a Safe Following Distance

Rainy weather means lower visibility and trickier road surfaces. To mitigate risks, increase your following distance behind other vehicles. The general recommendation is to double the gap you usually maintain. Instead of the typical three-second rule, aim for at least six seconds. This gives you more time to react if the car in front of you brakes suddenly. Data shows that nearly 47% of weather-related accidents occur during rainfall, primarily due to inadequate stopping distances.

Fact - Nearly 47% of weather-related accidents occur during rainfall.

Reducing Your Speed

Speeding on wet roads is a recipe for disaster. Even a small amount of water can make a road perilously slippery. Reducing your speed helps in multiple ways: it lowers the risk of hydroplaning, gives you more time to respond to unexpected situations, and enhances overall control of your vehicle. Experts advise dropping your speed by at least a third when roads are wet. For example, if the speed limit is 60 mph, you should be driving no faster than 40 mph.

Using Headlights to Increase Visibility

Turning on your headlights in rainy conditions isn’t just about seeing the road better; it’s also about being seen by other drivers. Use low-beam headlights rather than high beams, as the latter can reflect off the rain and further reduce your visibility. Statistics indicate that using headlights during rain significantly reduces the likelihood of accidents.

Important - Using headlights during rainy conditions significantly reduces the likelihood of accidents.

For more insights on driving in less-than-ideal weather, check out our highway driving practices guide.

Practical Tips for Driving in the Rain:

  • Avoid cruise control: Manual control helps you respond more quickly to water on the road.

  • Steer gently: Abrupt movements can lead to skidding.

  • Brake early: Start braking sooner than usual to prevent hydroplaning.

  • Stay in the middle lane: Water tends to pool more in outer lanes.

Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be better equipped to handle the unique challenges of driving in the rain.

Handling Emergencies

Reacting correctly to emergencies can mean the difference between a close call and a collision. Here are essential tips for handling common rainy-day driving hazards effectively.

Dealing with Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning occurs when your tires lose contact with the road due to water buildup, causing loss of steering and braking control. If you feel your car hydroplaning, resist the urge to brake or turn suddenly. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator and steer straight until you regain traction. Gently turning the steering wheel in the direction you want to go can help you regain control. Hydroplaning typically happens at speeds above 35 mph, making speed reduction a key preventative measure.

Maneuvering Around Puddles and Flooded Areas

Driving through puddles might seem harmless, but they can conceal deeper hazards like potholes or debris. Avoid puddles if you can. If avoiding them is not an option, slow down before you reach the water. Driving through flooded areas can be particularly dangerous. According to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly half of all flood-related drownings happen when vehicles are driven into floodwaters. If water appears too deep (generally six inches or more), it’s safer to find an alternative route.

Quote - In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. - Albert Einstein.

Steps to Take If You Skid

Skidding on a wet road can be alarming, but knowing how to handle it can prevent an accident. If you start to skid, stay calm and follow these steps:

  • Ease off the gas: Keep your foot off the accelerator.

  • Steer in the direction you want to go: Look where you want to go and gently steer towards that direction.

  • Avoid harsh braking: Slamming on the brakes can make the skid worse. Instead, if you need to slow down, pump the brakes gently if you don’t have an anti-lock braking system (ABS). If you have ABS, apply steady pressure.

These immediate actions can help you maintain control and bring your vehicle back on course.

For more insights on managing road hazards, check out our guide on react to road hazards.


Driving safely in the rain requires preparation and vigilance. Key tips include maintaining your vehicle, reducing speed, increasing following distances, and understanding how to handle emergencies, such as hydroplaning and skids.

Key Takeaways - Tips for Driving Safely in the Rain

Being well-prepared and attentive can significantly enhance driving safety during rainy conditions. Regular checks on tires, wipers, and lights are essential. Slowing down and increasing the distance between vehicles also play a crucial role in accident prevention. Knowing what to do in an emergency helps in maintaining control and avoiding collisions.

At The Wiser Driver Driving School, we offer comprehensive programs designed to boost your driving confidence. Our services include Joshua’s Law classes, personalized lessons, defensive driving courses, and convenient road testing. With experienced instructors, insurance rate reductions, and pick-up/drop-off services, we are your trusted partner for safe driving. Explore more at The Wiser Driver.

Practice Safe Driving Habits:

  • Check tires monthly

  • Replace worn wipers

  • Use headlights in rain

  • Slow down on wet roads

  • Double following distance

For more practical tips, visit our resources on night driving and reacting to road hazards. Stay safe and drive wisely.