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How to Drive Safely During Rainstorms - Tips For Autistic Drivers

  • April 27, 2022
  • Andrew Arboe

Most people who drive, know how to drive safely under what we think of as ideal conditions. Driving on a warm cloudy day with a little wind is ideal for most drivers, and they know how to stay safe. But so much of driving isn’t under ideal conditions. People often drive during snowstorms and on icy days and even during hail or sleet. While we recommend not driving whenever a driver doesn’t feel comfortable, especially when it’s related to snow and ice, there are also conditions that can be safe if handled correctly. One such weather condition is rainstorms. Rainstorms don’t typically stop most drivers from going out as long as it’s not that bad of a storm. However, rain can change driving significantly, and drivers can stay safe only if they know what to be aware of and to look out for. With that in mind, this is a Driving with Autism blog post for neurodiverse and neurotypical drivers on how to drive safely during a rainstorm. This is driving-related safety information that every new driver should learn. Let’s discuss a few different things to consider while driving during a rainstorm:

  1. Slowing down: This is as simple as it is vital. The most important thing any driver can do while driving during a rainstorm, whether they are autistic or not, is slow down. During a rainstorm, every driver should be driving slower than they typically do. While driving too slow can be dangerous under ideal driving conditions because other cars aren’t driving as slow, in this case, all cars on the road should also be going slower than usual. There are a few reasons why driving slowly is so important to safety during rainstorms. The first is that rain makes the roads slippery, and a heavy amount of rain can mess with the traction of a vehicle’s tires. This means that during rainstorms cars are more likely to slide uncontrollably. A driver can lose control of their own car due to a sudden turn or braking too quickly. Driving with Autism recommends reducing your typical driving speed by 5mph during a common rain shower and by 10mph during a heavy rainstorm. Going slower also helps every driver handle driving in the rain safer by preparing them for handling things such as the following distance and hydroplaning, which will be covered next. Slow driving allows more time and attention to be spent on safe driving.
  2. Following distance: Following distance is an extremely important and constant part of driving for any driver during any drive. Following distance refers to the distance between a driver’s vehicle and the vehicle in front of it when driving. Following distance is very important for safety because it determines how close a vehicle is to the one in front of it, which becomes crucial if the front vehicle suddenly hits its brakes or starts driving erratically. Too short of a following distance often leads to rear-end collisions where a vehicle hits the vehicle in front of them because they didn’t have time to react to the vehicle ahead of them braking. Having a larger following distance allows a driver more time to react to the actions of the vehicle in front of them, which is especially important during rainstorms where visibility can be an issue. When it is hard for a driver to tell what is going on in front of their car, they need to give themselves more time to react to sudden changes. This means while driving during a rainstorm, every driver should have a longer following distance than usual.

  3. Hydroplaning: Hydroplaning is a very specific issue that comes up while driving in heavy rain. Hydroplaning is when a vehicle skids along a wet road because all four tires have lost all traction with the road. This leads to vehicles drifting completely out of the control of their driver, and they often stop because they hit something. This can be a guardrail, a sign, a tree, or another vehicle. Hydroplaning is a significant and very dangerous hazard of driving in heavy. It happens due to the buildup of rainwater into large puddles that make specific sections of the road extremely slippery. The best ways to avoid hydroplaning are to ensure that all tires are fully inflated, to slow down during rainstorms, and to avoid sudden actions like fast-breaking or sharp turns. Avoiding large water bodies on the road also helps with decreasing the chances of hydroplaning. When a driver takes their time, all of these recommendations are very doable, but they have to take their time while driving in rainy conditions. Good drivers don’t rush themselves if they don’t have to, because they know that’s part of driving safety.

Rainstorms may be a challenge but they’re one that can be overcome by being a safe, alert, and informed driver. By using the information provided in this blog post, driving during rainstorms can be made immensely safer. However, remember that there is always an increased danger when driving in non-ideal conditions, and it is completely okay for any driver to decide not to drive in conditions that make them feel unsafe. This is true for all drivers, but especially neurodiverse drivers with autism, ADHD, OCD, or a learning disability. The topic of feeling safe while driving is further covered in drivers’ education programs or at driving schools, but rarely talked about with the importance it deserves. I have met plenty of drivers who do not drive during rainstorms because it is particularly difficult for them, due to sensory reasons, anxiety, or simply bad experiences. Driving during a rainstorm is a choice, but if it is one a driver is making, it is important they keep all of the things discussed throughout this post in mind. Above all, I would like to convey how vital the mentality of “take your time” can be while driving during non-ideal conditions. It can literally be a lifesaver. There is generally no reason to rush driving and the moment a driver does rush; they’re putting themselves at risk for reckless driving. Driving with Autism hopes this information has been valuable and has conveyed the importance of safe driving, as well as how to drive safely in unexpected weather. Above all, remember: The best drivers are safe drivers!

Be sure to check our multi-part webinar series. We are presenting our first topic for our Spring Session on May 12th and will run the series to the beginning of July. Be sure to also check out our free resources such as our downloadable eBook and our other blog posts. We look forward to hearing from you soon and we are excited to help you on your driving journey!

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