Top tips for driving in wet weather
Well that’s it folks. As if almost on cue, the day after a record-smashing last day of summer, rain has set in. Even though Seattle is known as the “rainy city,” did you know that Vancouver has higher annual rainfall averages?
The reality of the matter is that this is the start of the less-than-ideal weather conditions Lower Mainlanders can expect during the autumn months.
To help keep everyone safe and hopefully accident-free, I caught up with professional racecar driver Scott Hargrove for his expert driving tips on driving in the rain.
Scott recently won the 2014 GT3 Porsche Cup Challenge Canada Championship in the OpenRoad Auto Group Porsche911 GT3, and finished second in the open-wheel 2014 Pro Mazda Championship series.
Although Scott’s “office” is technically the race track, most of the best practices that he adheres to is also fully applicable to street driving. For the purpose of this article, we've also enlisted the services of a limited edition 2015 25th Anniversary Mazda MX-5 Miata!
Here are a few top driving tips to consider before you drive again in the rain.
The first step in driving effectively is to be in the correct driving position. Driving is a physical activity and like an athlete playing a physical sport, you have to be in the ideal “stance” in order to perform your best.
“Most people lean back in their seats or sit too close to the wheel. You must be able to reach all of the controls easily, comfortably, and be relaxed. You gain so much of the car’s physical feedback through the steering wheel and seat. If you aren’t seated properly, you won’t be able to feel the forces and vibrations to understand what your vehicle is doing,” says Hargrove.
He adds, “Make sure that your seating position is upright and puts as much of your body in contact with the seat”. Scott says. “Your seat should be adjusted so you are able to fully reach and depress the pedals but with just a slight bend in your legs. If you sit too close or too far, you won’t have the proper leverage or flexibility to turn the steering wheel.”
Second tip - few drivers consider what to do with their feet. Did you know that what you do with your left foot may have more effect on your emergency stopping distance than anything?
“You want to brace your body by planting your left foot against the ‘dead pedal,’” says Hargrove.
By doing this, you will be able to work the brake pedal more efficiently since your body will be supported by your legs. During heavy braking, most people incorrectly brace their bodies by clutching onto the steering wheel. This leaves them unable to properly steer away and avoid a potential crash.
Proper steering wheel positioning is the third most important tip, and one that Hargrove says many people could use.
“The safest and best position for you hands is at the 9 and 3 o’clock position (think of the steering wheel as the face of a clock).”
Scott admits that when the weather, visibility and traffic conditions are ideal, it’s fine to relax.
“It’s very important to be prepared to quickly move your hands back to 9 and 3 in an emergency, or when conditions deteriorate. Keeping your hands at that position ensures that driving inputs will be as smooth as possible. Outside of parking, you should be able to make most turns without your hands leaving this position.”
One other important safety-related point to consider is that at 9 and 3 o’clock, your arms will be outside the path of the airbag deploying at 200 miles per hour.
Other fall driving tips that Scott shared are as follows:
- On slippery roads, learn to anticipate low grip situations. Smoother inputs will help to keep the tires on the road as much as possible due to reduced abrupt weight transfer.
- Know which lights to use. Don’t use your high beams when it’s raining because the raindrops catch the light, glaring back into your eyes.
- Pay more attention to pedestrians during the reduced daylight hours. Many are still wearing dark coloured clothing and will be difficult to see in poor weather conditions.
- Make sure that your car’s tires are set at the right pressures. Underinflated tires have an increased surface area and will be more prone to hydroplaning on wet surfaces.
Look for more collaboration between Scott Hargrove and our blog in the upcoming months — in the meantime, stay safe out there on the open road!