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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Tue, May 31, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


WHY DON'T L.A. DRIVERS KNOW HOW TO DRIVE IN THE RAIN? That's what out-of-towners ask about Los Angelenos. As the popular notion goes, LA drivers are so used to driving in dry weather, that the first rains always result in an abundance of accidents. Transportation experts, on the other hand, say that the roads in LA are more dangerous during first rains because the year-round dry weather means more accumulated oil and grease on the roads. In other parts of the country, periodic rain allows the oil and grease to wash off, thereby never allowing the dangerous build-up of LA roads. Whether you want to blame the drivers or the weather, the Automobile Club of Southern California offers LA drivers some tips on how to drive during rain storms. "Most crashes are preventable if motorists pay extra attention," says Steve Mazor, principal automotive engineer. "Reduced visibility and slick surfaces mean that motorists will need to modify their normal-weather driving habits." To avoid crashes, the Auto Club makes the following recommendations for safer driving: Slow down. Motorists should drive slowly, particularly through puddles. Hitting several inches of water at high speeds can cause a driver to lose control of the car. Fast driving through puddles may also push or splash water into the engine and cause it to stall. Driving at slower speeds helps drivers be prepared for sudden stops due to disabled cars, debris, and other hazards associated with wet-weather driving. Keep your distance. A car needs two-to-three times more stopping distance on wet pavement, so allow extra following distance between cars. If the car skids and control is lost, do not slam on the brakes. Instead apply the brakes with a steady, light but firm pressure. Remember to steer in the direction the car is sliding. When traction is regained, steering control will return. For cars equipped with anti-lock brakes, drivers should apply heavy steady pressure, but not pump the brakes. Use the center lanes. When driving during heavy rain, use center lanes of the road (without straddling the yellow line). Avoid outside lanes where water collects at curbside. Avoid distractions. Motorists are advised to minimize eating, drinking, cellular phone use, tuning stereo or applying makeup while driving, particularly in the rain. If it's necessary to engage in these activities, pull over and stop in a safe place. Stay informed. Tune into radio and television weather reports to know where flood warning areas or traffic congestion might be located. If possible, avoid these areas. Car maintenance: Car maintenance needs increase during wet weather. Motorists are advised to follow this checklist: Check brakes periodically. After driving through a puddle, check that brakes are working properly by tapping them gently a few times. Use headlights and windshield defroster. Driving in the rain means reduced visibility. The Auto Club recommends that motorists turn on the vehicle's headlights so they can see and be seen. Turning on the defroster helps keep the inside of the windshield clear of moisture. Check tires. Make sure tires are in good condition and are at the recommended inflation level. Driving with bald tires on a slippery surface is a major factor in skidding. Tires should have at least 1/32nd of an inch tread depth at any two adjacent grooves, the minimum allowable by law. Driving on tires that are over-inflated or under-inflated is also extremely dangerous on wet pavement. Make sure windshield wiper blades are in good condition. Streaks or skipping on the vehicle's windshield are signs of worn wiper blades. Inspect wipers once a month and check washer solvent reservoir to ensure it's full. The Automobile Club of Southern California is the largest affiliate of the Automobile Association of America (AAA), and has been serving its members since 1900. - Roy Nakano

Editor's Note: "Riders On The Storm" first appeared as an article in the LA Car Blog.

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