Driving to Arlington a few weeks ago for what turned into a wild goose chase, I was stunned at the downright idiotic driving. A number of cars on the verge of stopping in the middle of the highway, not using headlights and following cars too closely. The worst part of the incredible chaos was that it was all caused by drivers who were clueless of precautions to take when driving in rain. Yes, the roads were a bit hazardous that day, and I understand that people were just trying to prevent accidents in their overly cautious reduction of speed. I’ll be the first to admit that I am very conservative in my driving in potentially treacherous weather conditions and drive the speed limit or slower if the roads are dangerous. But coming to a standstill in the middle of a highway was absolutely beyond me.
Being from Maryland, where it rains on a regular basis, I am used to driving in wet conditions. I understand that driving in rain is something that Texas natives are not used to, and after that unbelievable sight, I feel that they could use a few good driving tips to avoid potentially fatal driving situations that are subject of unfortunate news headlines.
My first tip to all drivers is to turn on their headlights at the first sign of precipitation. Using headlights is so beneficial to visibility in bad driving situations, a fact often unnoticed by drivers in this area. There is a law in Maryland where if it is necessary to use windshield wipers, than headlights must be on – that should surely be instated in Texas.
In addition to headlights, drivers should take into consideration that stopping time and distance in the rain is greater than on dry roadways. Therefore, it is necessary to give more space to surrounding vehicles. Even if the car ahead of you is going slower than a steamroller, following too closely is not going to make them want to go any faster, and is a surefire way to cause an accident.
Texas drivers should consider better judgment of driving speed on wet roadways. A few drops of rain should not immediately trigger a standstill on a highway, as those approaching at a normal speed may not be able to slow down in time to avoid a pile-up accident. Instead, drivers should be encouraged to judge their speed based on the amount of rainfall, and, of course, to consider keeping close to the speed of surrounding drivers.
The first measure to improve the driving conditions on Texas roadways could include a day in drivers’ education classes on driving in hazardous weather. A whole session in all Maryland drivers’ education classes is dedicated to driving in bad weather, which generally has a great outcome.
It is also necessary to consider that in Texas rain is infrequent, making roads even more dangerous. Perhaps drivers should use precautions to an even greater extent after droughts, as this is often a time when news headlines of fatal accidents are most disconcerting.
A final thought on driving in rain – surrounding drivers’ lack of caution is often the cause of bad situations, regardless of your own driving skill.
Now, maybe people from Texas can give those of us from cooler climates tips on how to deal with oppressive heat.
Becky Schiffer is a junior biology major from Gaithersburg, Md.