In the first 25 days of January, the City of Portland has already accumulated heavy amounts of rain on the roadway. When the road is wet, the water on the asphalt can cause tires to lose traction. Another effect of heavy rain is the reduction in driver perception and a decrease in visibility through its action on headlights, windshields, and the road itself.
Each year during this time, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) sees a visible increase in the number of traffic accidents in the greater city of Portland. In January 2010,Portland firefighters responded to just over 200 traffic accidents. One year later, that number increased by 16% to 245.
PF&R encourages citizens to follow the tips below which will help enable you, and those who share the road with you, from becoming a statistic.
- Always allow for additional travel time during rainy weather; rushing equals higher risk. Plan to drive at a slower pace than normal when the roads are wet. Keep in mind that traffic is likely to be moving slower as well.
- Brake earlier and with less force than you would normally. This will increase the stopping distance between you and the car in front of you, and let the driver behind you know that you're slowing down. Also, be more meticulous about using turn signals, so that other drivers know your intentions, and take turns and curves with less speed than you would in dry conditions.
- If possible, stay toward the middle of the road to avoid deep standing puddles.
- Don't use cruise control. If you hydroplane, there's the chance your car could actually accelerate. Cruise control also allows drivers to be less vigilant and to take their foot away from the pedals.
- If you see a large puddle up ahead, drive around it or choose a different route. It could be that it's covering a huge gaping maw into the front door of hell. Well, maybe not, but water splashing up into your car's engine compartment could damage its internal electrical systems. Also, a pothole may be hiding under the water, just waiting in ambush to damage a wheel or knock your suspension out of alignment. If you can't gauge the depth, or if it's covering up the side curb, try to avoid it.
- Turn on your headlights, even when there's a light sprinkle. It helps you see the road and aids other motorists in seeing you.
- Watch out for pedestrians.
- If it's raining so hard that you can't see the road or the car in front of you, pull over and wait it out.
- Track the car ahead of you. Let the car ahead pave a clear path through the water.
- Give a truck or bus extra distance.
- Defog your windows. Rain will quickly cause your windshield to fog up. Switch on both front and rear defrosters and make sure the air conditioning is turned on. Most cars' climate control systems will automatically engage the A/C when the windshield defrost function is selected.
- If you start to hydroplane, don't brake suddenly or turn the wheel, or you might spin into a skid. Release the gas pedal slowly and steer straight until the car regains traction. If you must brake, tap the brake pedal (unless you have antilock brakes, in which case you can put your foot down).