We’ve all experienced it. A big storm comes into town, and suddenly it seems like no one remembers how to drive anymore.
It’s a source of much frustration for Jacksonville residents. We deal with heavy rain every summer, after all, so why is it that our drivers often act like it’s their first time seeing such a downpour?
We’ve compiled a list of a few driving mistakes we commonly see around the city during a storm, in hopes of improving traffic and even saving lives this hurricane season.
Driving with Hazard Lights On
A common, yet baffling, practice among many drivers is to turn on their hazard lights during heavy rain. Presumably, they do this out of fear that others will not be able to see their car due to the downpour. They also presumably aren’t aware of the fact that driving with your hazard lights on is illegal in the state of Florida.
Not only is it illegal, it’s also stupid and dangerous. Hazard lights are meant to be used when a vehicle is stopped, to warn of a broken-down or stopped car on the side of the road. By putting on your hazard lights, you might actually be confusing drivers who assume that the car they’re approaching must either be stopped or about to stop. Additionally, the presence of hazard lights flashing can distract from your brake lights, which means people behind you might not be able to tell that you’re stopping until it’s too late.
Slowing to a Crawl
Driving in heavy rain can be terrifying at times, and it’s perfectly understandable to drive at reduced speeds during particularly rough patches.
What is less reasonable, though, is slowing down to speeds normally found only in residential areas while on a major road such as I-95 or Butler Blvd. Unfortunately, many drivers tend to do this when the rain gets heavy.
Slowing down significantly without any warning can cause danger to drivers behind you that have no reason to expect this. It may force them to either slam on their brakes, further endangering the line of cars behind you, or to jet into another lane and risk being side-swiped.
We’re certainly not advocating traveling at a high speed during rain; that can be every bit as dangerous as slowing to a crawl. However, we do suggest that you try your best to maintain a slightly-reduced speed without overdoing it.
As mentioned, driving in heavy rain can be scary.
However, it’s extremely important to not freak out if the rain gets particularly thick. Panic rarely leads to good decisions, especially when driving.
We already mentioned that suddenly driving too slow can be dangerous. What’s even more dangerous is slamming on your brakes and stopping completely — which, unfortunately, some drivers have done in the past and caused accidents in the process.
Likewise, trying to get off the road too quickly can result in an accident if you don’t take a few seconds to make sure you won’t be cutting into another car’s path. There’s nothing wrong with getting off the road and waiting for the rain to calm down — in fact, if you don’t feel comfortable driving in those conditions, it’s the responsible decision. Just be sure to do it after taking a deep breath. Even if you’re stuck on the road, it will be okay as long as you remain alert but calm.
On the flip side, it can be just as dangerous to be too confident about driving in the rain.
Maybe you’ve lived in Jacksonville, or an equally rainy city, for many years and feel like you can handle it way better than these newbies slamming on brakes and flipping on their hazards. The reality is that even the most experienced driver makes mistakes, especially when it’s raining.
For example, trying to weave through the slowed-down cars is a poor decision due to reduced reaction times caused by low visibility. On a sunny day, the average driver can usually see someone impatient whipping around and sliding in front of them. In heavy rain, the odds of that scenario turning into a fender-bender increase dramatically.
You must also fight the temptation to release your inner speed demon just because everyone else is going so slow. You may be on an open path at the time, but traffic can back up quickly and slamming on your brakes with a wet road beneath you will send you spinning.
Yes, the drivers in Jacksonville can be frustrating, especially in bad weather. Still, it’s better to deal with it patiently and get home safe.