With drought plaguing much of the country, summer rains can be a welcome relief. But there is one place where the rains aren’t so welcome – on the roads. Automobile accidents occur more frequently during periods of inclement weather. This is especially true on high-speed roadways. However, the statistics point to another disturbing fact: rain-related collisions are more commonplace in the summer.
There are three major factors contributing to the increased number of traffic accidents during summer rainy periods. The first has to do with the unexpected high levels of water and flooded roadways. The second factor is tire-related, and the third involves the amount of residue buildup on the roadways.
How Summer Rains Affect Driving Conditions
In many parts of the country, rainy weather is common from November through April. Drivers become accustomed to this and tend to take extra precautions when operating the vehicle. However, summer weather is usually warmer and drier, and motorists often forget that the occasional rainstorm may affect the roads in a different manner.
For one thing, areas with moist climates often have soil that is nearly saturated throughout the year. It doesn’t take much of a cloudburst to completely overwhelm the soil’s ability to hold more water. Flooding during a summer rain is quite likely because the heaviest downpours tend to occur during this season.
In drier climates, warm weather contributes to hard-packed soil. By late summer, hardened ground cannot absorb water very quickly, resulting in flash floods. Road surfaces that are not crowned can become inundated with a sheet of running water in just minutes.
The Problem With All-Season Radials
There is no better advertising for tire products than a commercial vividly showing the manner in which a well-designed tread sucks up water and throws it clear of the tire. This is good for the rubber industry but creates a horrible situation on the freeway. Winter tires often have a very different tread pattern than the popular summer brands, and drivers experience this firsthand when trailing a high-speed vehicle on the open road.
During summer rain squalls, freeway visibility is near zero at high speeds because of the amount of spray and mist created by these technologically advanced tires. Drivers are highly encouraged to keep a distance of more than one car length per 10 mph when trailing other traffic on a rain-soaked freeway.
Buildup of Residue on Highways
As the weather begins to warm, oil leaks are more frequent in passenger cars. Particulates that are a combination of dirt, soot, grime, grease and oil begin to build up on the road surfaces between rainsqualls. A sudden wetting of the roadway makes for very slick driving conditions.
A road is at its most dangerous when rain mixes with oil. This creates a situation where friction is lost between tire and asphalt, greatly reducing the ability for the driver to steer the vehicle. Furthermore, the loss of friction renders many of the car’s engineering features to function abnormally.
A road that is covered in a sheen of oil causes slight planing of the vehicle. It also tends to result in a higher rpm because the driver is still exerting pressure on the gas pedal. The traction control system that is now standard on many current models may not be able to read the data correctly, resulting in an improper adjustment to any one of the four wheels.
Be Extra Careful When Towing
The bottom line for drivers is to take extra precautions when hitting the roadways in summer. A sudden rainstorm will affect the roads, vehicle, and driver quite differently than a winter drizzle. The usual prudence seen in drivers during periods of snow and ice are best practiced in the summer as well.
Drivers operating large trucks, RVs, or towing a boat, camper, or trailer need to be extra cautious when driving in summer rains. The loss of control of these vehicles can result in even more perilous consequences.