Dr. Gridlock: Tips for afternoon driving

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By  Robert Thomson
Thursday, September 30, 2010; 3:59 PM

Most drivers seem to be handling the heavy rain fine, but not all of them. Here are some suggestions for your afternoon drive, based on what I just saw on the roads.

Don't relax. The midday rain has been coming through in waves. You might find it has lightened up, only to encounter a sudden, blinding downpour.

Turn your lights on. It's the driving-in-rain safety step I hear most often from travelers, and they get really annoyed when they see other drivers failing to take this basic precaution.

Watch passing vehicles. Things may be going fine when you're suddenly blinded by a passing car, truck or bus that covers your windshield in spray or kicks up gallons from a puddle.

Watch for potholes. The storm has opened up some new ones, and they are sometimes hidden under pools of rain water.

Watch for pedestrians. Children will be coming out of school with their hoods pulled over their heads. Just as you're having trouble seeing them, they are having trouble seeing you. Also, use caution and slow down as you drive in lanes adjacent to sidewalks. Pedestrians are wet enough today.

Watch for emergency vehicles. I can't recall a day when I saw so many ambulances and firetrucks.

Be careful changing lanes. I saw some dangerous lane changes in which the lane changer wasn't able to see a nearby vehicle because windows were fogged up. Signal well in advance of a lane change, and crank up the defroster.

Watch for standing water. I know this tip should be obvious, but I saw plenty of cars traveling too fast when they hit puddles or ran through more extensive areas of flooding. The heavy waters come and go. A spot that may have been fine when you first passed through could be flooded when you return.

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