Last month, we braced ourselves as tropical Storm Ophelia made landfall. Most of us sought shelter against its high winds and heavy rains as alarms on phones and televisions sounded day and night, warning of flash and urban floodings from Virginia to New Jersey.

More than 50,000 customers in several states lost power with downed trees and powerlines, creating deadly hazards in desperate need of repair.  

Travelers were left stranded, unable to make it home or to safety due to the storm surge that flooded roadways throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

Luckily, no fatalities were attributed to this storm, which served as a “thank goodness” bullet we dodged as we know Mother Nature carries deadly forces.

Although a good dousing may be great for trees and wildlife, it presents an extra level of hazard for those of us driving down freeways and city streets.

Some refuse to drive in the rain.  They feel uncomfortable on the road during a storm and will reschedule plans to avoid being out if the forecast looks grim.   Still, others brave the storms with reckless abandon, sure their driving skills and sturdy vehicles will see them to the other end of rain-drenched roads and flooded streets.

Stormy weather brings challenges for even the most seasoned drivers. For some, driving through storms is unavoidable.  A commercial driver can’t simply stop for the day because of a rainstorm.  They’d lose that day’s pay at best and, at worst, be suspended or fired for failing to get their shipment to its destination on time.   The same holds for most hard-working Americans.  If there’s a bad storm during your commute to work, you must drive through or risk being late, and face being written up or worse.

So, for all who choose to brave the rain, here are some wet weather driving tips that will help increase the odds of you reaching your destination safely, if not a little damp:

  1. If you’re on the road and a sudden burst of heavy rain shows up, consider pulling over until it eases up a bit. Often, storms come in waves, and waiting for a lull in the rain will help you navigate with better visibility.
  2. Turn your lights on. If you must drive through a rainstorm, turn your lights on.  Headlights help improve your visibility and help other drivers see you as well.  A good rule of thumb is if your windshield wipers need to be on, your lights need to be on as well.
  3. Reduce your speed. This one should be a no-brainer.  You have lower visibility and less chance to react on slick roads. Slow down.  Getting to your destination at ten miles under the speed limit is better than not getting there at all.
  4. Don’t tailgate. Again, this one seems obvious. If you’re driving in the rain, stay far away from the vehicles in front of you.  This increases your reaction time if something happens and the driver in front of you loses control or must suddenly stop.
  5. Don’t Risk it! If you see standing water on the road, don’t risk driving through.  Flood waters can look deceptively shallow, and drivers often don’t realize the road is impassable until it’s too late.  Every time you chance driving through flood waters, you risk destroying your engine at least and risking your life if the water is too deep or your vehicle is swept away.
  6. Stay away from buses and big trucks. It’s harder for oversized vehicles to stop, and they have many more blind spots than you do. You don’t want to be anywhere near one of them if they lose control on the road.  Give them room.  Lots of room.
  7. Watch for pedestrians, bike riders, and motorcyclists. These unfortunate souls trapped in a rainstorm are likely already soaking wet and miserable.  Often, they are in a rush with their heads down, trying to find a place to get out of the rain.  Remember that they may not be paying attention to their surroundings as well as they should. Give them room.  A lot of room.
  8. Stay in the middle lane. Not too fast. Not too slow, but just right.  The center lane of a freeway is often the safest place to drive, especially during rainstorms.  Speeds are steadier and more predictable, and you are less likely to encounter pooling road water.
  9. Lastly, don’t drive. Staying off the road is the best way to avoid a wreck during bad weather.  If you know the weather is bad and you can change your plans, change them.  A thunderstorm experienced from the safety of your home is a lot more enjoyable than on a freeway full of semi-trucks, slick roads, and limited visibility.

Well, that’s all for now.  So be safe out there, and if you ever need the services of an experienced personal injury attorney, I’m here for you. Call me at 703-761-4343 (Virginia) or 301-949-1515 (Maryland). I’m here to help in every way I can.

Until next time, please be safe, and NEVER text while driving!

Paul Samakow

Attorney Paul Samakow

703-761-4343 or 301-949-1515.

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