“The wettest.” If records are meant to be broken, the record for “historic rainfall totals” in the nation’s capital will likely fall this weekend, the National Weather Service is forecasting. In terms of weather “normals, means and extremes,” the previous record is 61.33 inches of precipitation. It was set nearly 130 years ago, or back in1889. As heavy rains this evening and weekend will prove, rushing on wet, winter roads puts you at greater risk for car crashes. Bad weather is a factor in more than 2,000 highway deaths every winter, warns the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
 
Then there is the matter of the climate and weather. Although the Washington metro averages a blizzard “once every four to six years,” the District has an annual snowfall average of 15.5 inches. Yet when it comes to rainfall, the city experiences an average of 115 days per year with precipitation. Severe weather can be both redoubtable and dangerous for automobile travel. Motorists should know the safety rules for dealing with winter road emergencies. AAA reminds motorists to be cautious while driving in adverse weather.
 
During downbursts and bouts of wet, inclement, or wintry weather it might mean staying home, if you really don’t have to venture out into the elements, advises AAA. In fact, 21 percent of all auto collisions are weather-related, mostly due to wet pavement and rain, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. “Each year, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet,” explains the Federal Highway Administration ( FHWA).
 
“About 46 percent of crashes involving bad weather take place in the winter, making this the worst time of year for driving in treacherous conditions,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “The highest proportion of crashes involving bad weather happen overnight from 6:00 p.m. until 5:59 a.m.., when visibility is limited and roads are most likely to freeze.”
 
In the annals of history, 2018 will emerge as the wettest year on record in the D.C. region. The rainiest major city in the United States is New Orleans, which accumulates a total of 63.5 inches of precipitation annually, but as of December 13, it only had57.94 inches. There is this running joke that goes “Washington area drivers really don’t know how to drive in the snow.” The truth is area drivers aren’t that good at driving in precipitation either. That is because most Washington metro area residents are not “ homegrown,” they were born-and-bred elsewhere, including areas that don’t get much snow.
 
It is time to brush up on your hydrosphere driving skill set. The first is being prepared for winter driving and preparing your vehicle for the rigors of wintry and drizzly driving. “Follow your instincts and don’t drive if you feel unsafe or if authorities are advising you to stay off the roads,” said Kendall Bramble, Insurance Counselor, AAA Insurance. “If you do venture out, proceed with caution.” Your winter driving skill set includes becoming a safer and more efficient driver in adverse weather conditions by maximizing traction, maintaining safe following distance and changing speed smoothly. It is slippery when wet.
 
The first rule of safe driving during wet weather is to slow down to improve tire traction.Yes, we can smell fresh rain falling on dry earth and the word for it is “ Petrichor.” It is elementary. Tires are what keep a car connected to the road. Driving on relatively worn tires at highway speeds in wet conditions can increase average stopping distances by a staggering 43 percent, when compared to new tires, research from AAA reveals. The difference equates to an additional 87 feet -- more than the length of a semi-trailer truck – of stopping distance. With nearly 800,000 crashes occurring on wet roads each year, AAA urges drivers to check tread depth, replace tires proactively, and increase following distances significantly during rainy conditions.  
 
The water cycle. Here is the most surprising thing, crashes in bad weather are generally less severe than crashes taking place in clear weather. For example, crashes that occur on snow-covered roads result in 31 percent fewer injuries per crash and 47 percent fewer fatalities per crash than on dry roads. That is according to a 2016 research report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The study found, “Crashes on interstate highways were slightly more likely than crashes on other types of roads to occur under adverse weather conditions (18.6% vs. 13.4%) and on wet roads (17.2% vs. 14.0%).”
 
The AAA Foundation study, “ Motor Vehicle Crashes, Injuries and Deaths in Relation to Weather Conditions,” investigated the number of motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and deaths that occurred in the United States in years 2010-2014 in relation to weather conditions and roadway surface conditions. “Over 70 percent of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions, which receive more than five inches (or 13 cm) average snowfall annually,” advises the FHWA. “Nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population lives in these snowy regions.” Life is like “an ever rolling stream,” so keep these other tips in mind when driving this winter:
  • Avoid braking and turning at the same time. Brake first, then turn, then accelerate. Accelerate and decelerate more slowly than you would on dry roads.
  • Leave plenty of space between your car and the car ahead of you. Increase following distances to at least 6 seconds.
  • Drive with your low-beam headlights on, even during daylight.
  • Be predictable. Use turn signals, make sure lanes are clear before changing and leave plenty of time to stop.
  • Avoid using cruise control, which can reduce traction.
  • If you start to skid, don’t slam on the brakes. Continue to look and steer in the direction you want the car to go.
  • Avoid puddles when it’s safe to do so.
  • Always wear your seat belt.
  • Stay alert and minimize distractions. Don’t text, talk on the phone or drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • In snow and ice, try not to stop when heading up a steep hill. After you’ve stopped, applying extra gas to get started again may only spin your wheels. Get some momentum going on a flat road as you approach the hill to help you reach the top, then reduce your speed and drive down the hill slowly.
  • If your visibility is so limited that you can’t see in front of you, carefully pull off to the side of the road and stop completely.
For the sake of clarity, tire depth is measured in 32nds of an inch, with most new tires starting out at 10/32” or 11/32.” Measuring your remaining tread depth is one of the most important car inspections you can do; you should do it monthly to uncover excessive or uneven wear before it becomes a safety hazard. 
 
Believe it or not, there are places in Antarctica, where it doesn’t snow. “Even Antarctica, the coldest and iciest continent, contains a region called the Dry Valleys, where it is extremely cold, but so dry that snow never falls,” according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.  Knowing “ How to Go On Ice And Snow” is imperative. Even the safest drivers have collisions.