Getting passengers from Point A to Point B may be a breeze on an average day, but when you’re driving in the rain, you need to know exactly how to keep them safe along the way.
No matter what state you live in, inclement weather always has the chance to strike, which can be great news for you. Rainstorms are actually the perfect opportunity for rideshare drivers to maximize Uber earnings and get more requests. With plenty of drivers avoiding wet roads and plenty of riders avoiding getting soaked, surge pricing has a strong chance of occurring and helping you earn extra with every trip. That is, as long as you’re confident about your ability to drive in bad weather.
In this article, we’ll give you a handful of safety tips to put into action, so you can start utilizing weather to your advantage.
- 4 Tips for Driving in the Rain
- How to Handle Emergencies
- Proper Vehicle Maintenance
- Frequently Asked Questions
4 Tips for Driving in the Rain
Driving in the rain requires some extra precautions that you wouldn’t take on a normal day. With the following tips, you can avoid the worst accidents and keep you, your passengers, and your vehicle away from harm during rainy weather.
1. Slow Down
A big part of defensive driving is adjusting for weather conditions. Speed limits are typically selected based on standard weather conditions, when your tire traction is ideal. When you’re driving in the rain, your traction will actually reduce by about a third. That said, you should properly reduce your speed by the same amount, as well.
When turning, slow down even more than you normally would to ensure your vehicle doesn’t skid when you do so. Be extra cautious when merging lanes, and always use your turn signals.
2. Brake Safely
While slowing down is a must, it’s actually recommended to brake less and never slam on the brakes when you’re driving in the rain. Instead of braking, you should slow down naturally by taking your foot off the accelerator when possible. This is because braking quickly can leave water in your brake system, causing them to be less effective.
Because braking is less effective in the rain, you should always retain a six-second gap between you and the car in front of you. If you’re driving in particularly heavy rain, a nine-second gap is considered a safe distance.
3. Turn on Headlights and Wipers
When driving in the rain, it’s crucial that you turn your windshield wipers on to ensure you have a clear sight of the road, as well as the people and vehicles around you. Because rainy days tend to bring overcast and foggy weather, you should also turn on your headlights to get the best view of what’s ahead.
Turning on your headlights and wipers in rainy conditions is legally required in many states, so in many cases, it’s actually not optional. Drivers should never turn on their brights, as high-beams can reflect off the water and impede the vision of drivers surrounding you.
4. Stay Focused
Being completely focused on driving is already a must when you’re a rideshare driver, but you need to be even more attentive when you’re driving in the rain. Keep your eyes on the road and check your rear view and side view mirrors frequently. Place both hands on the wheel in case of any emergencies.
We also recommend turning off your radio, or at least turning down your radio if your passenger insists on having music. When driving, you can use your phone to glance at directions along the way, but we do recommend taking full advantage of voice navigation and looking at directions before you take off to minimize phone use.
How to Handle Emergencies
Even when you’re following our safe driving tips, emergencies can occur. In this section, we’ll explain how to best handle these situations, so you can avoid car accidents in the rain.
When you’re driving on wet pavement, you must be prepared for hydroplaning. Even a small amount of excess water at low speeds can cause your tires to lose traction, causing your car to slide on the road uncontrollably.
The best thing to do in this situation is to stay calm and remember these steps:
- Slowly take your foot off your accelerator.
- Continue steering straight.
- If your vehicle continues to slide around, slowly turn your steering wheel in the direction you’re skidding in order to realign your wheels.
Never take any sudden actions when your car starts hydroplaning, as this puts you at greater risk for a bad car accident. You’ll feel your tires reconnecting with the pavement and driving in your desired direction when the hydroplaning ends.
Rising Water Levels
The moment you can’t see the road or its lane markings, you’re driving in or about to drive into water that’s too deep. In addition to causing you to lose control, this can put you at risk for getting water pushed under your vehicle, which can lead to your engine stalling. While a few inches of rain may not immediately seem dangerous, you never want to get your car stuck in a potential flooding situation.
When you realize the water is getting too deep, immediately stop and turn around when you can do so safely. If you can’t find an alternate route that isn’t closed, make sure to pull over and wait until driving conditions are safe again before you return to the road.
Windows can easily start to fog up due to moisture. If this occurs, make sure to turn on your rear defroster and your air conditioning, pointing your vents toward your windshield. If your visibility is quickly decreasing, pull over first. If this doesn’t do the trick, you can also slightly open your car windows, though you’ll want to warn passengers before you do so.
Proper Vehicle Maintenance
Whether or not you live in a rainy state, you should be prepared for a sudden downpour when it occurs. To keep your car in great condition for driving, make sure you complete these key elements of your car maintenance schedule:
- Check that all of your lights are in working order every week. Learning how to clean car headlights can ensure that the road ahead of you stays as visible as possible.
- Make sure your tires are in good condition once per week. This includes making sure your tire tread depth isn’t too low and that your tire pressure is as recommended in your owner’s manual, so you get enough traction on slippery roads.
- Clean your car windows and mirrors at least once per month, or whenever your sight is impeded in any way. You can read our guide on how to clean car windows for streak-free results.
- Check your windshield wiper fluid reservoir once per month to ensure your wiper fluid is at least half full, refilling as needed once per month, or once per week if you’re in a rainy state. Also make sure your wiper blades are in good condition and working properly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Practicing defensive driving is a must when you’re driving in the rain. To keep you and your passengers even safer on the roads, here are our answers to some common questions:
1. What should I do if I need to pull over when a rider is in the vehicle?
When the water is getting to deep or visibility is too low, it’s better to be safe than sorry. The best thing to do is explain the situation to your rider and find a safe stopping point on the side of the road, or in a parking lot if possible. Be willing to end the trip early if your rider would prefer to try to find another ride instead of waiting out the rain with you.
2. Can I use cruise control when I’m driving in the rain?
We highly recommend turning off cruise control when you’re driving in the rain. Cruise control actually decreases traction, which can put you at great risk for hydroplaning in wet weather. Drivers also tend to be more attentive on the road when they’re off cruise control, so it’s a great way to practice safe driving.
3. What’s the best lane to drive in when driving in the rain?
While there’s no rule that dictates what lane you need to be in, it’s recommended to stay in the middle lane when possible, as large puddles tend to form along the sides of well-paved roads.
Earn More in the Rain
Wet weather driving can be intimidating, but when you know what precautions to take and how to react to emergencies, it can be your best opportunity to earn. Driving in the rain will allow you to take advantage of surge pricing and even get large tips from thankful riders. Of course, it’s always important to know your limit and remember that safety comes before your earnings.
If you want the most effective windshield wipers to safely brave the rain, read our guide to the four best silicone wiper blades to make the best purchase.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.