A little rain on holiday can dampen your spirits when you're on holiday, but isn't usually a major problem. However, if you're hiring a car, heavy rain is a different matter; a torrential downpour or prolonged periods of rainfall can cause multiple hazards.
Whilst many places in Europe are prepared for bad weather, those parts of America that don't experience much rain are not. For example, many areas of California (including Los Angeles) don't have the drainage facilities necessary to cope with long periods of heavy rain. If you hire a car when visiting locations like this, be prepared for some water on the roads and in parking garages until the water levels in the drains fall.
Here are some tips to help ensure a safe journey when driving your hire car through tropical storms or winter downpours:
- Check your hire car's tyre pressures before starting out. Correct pressures will help to keep you safe and to prevent aquaplaning.
- Check local weather reports and delay your trip if bad conditions are predicted.
- The noise from the rain and windscreen wipers can sometimes become hypnotic, so make an effort to stay alert when driving your hire car.
- Slow down considerably; roads can become slippery or muddy, so you should be ready to take action. Reduce your speed carefully, rather than in one sudden burst, and if your hire car should skid, drive into it.
- Use your lights so that other road users can see your hire car easily.
- Make full use of your hire car's windscreen wipers and demisters. Full visibility is vital.
- Stopping distances change dramatically on wet roads, so you will need to increase the distance between you and the car in front. Remember to watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Don't overtake in your hire car unless you absolutely have to, and make sure that it's completely safe for you to do so.
- If you have to pull off the road, try to park your hire car somewhere safe. If you have to pull up at the roadside, turn on the hazard lights. Never get out of your hire car on the same side as the traffic, or walk on the road for any reason.
- If a road is flooded, find an alternative route. Don't attempt to drive your hire car through water unless you are sure of its depth. If you do drive through, proceed steadily but don't stop. Beware of getting your hire car's brakes wet and test them once you have crossed.
- If you get caught in a bad thunderstorm, stay in your hire car, as it's the safest place to be. If there is lightning, don't touch any metal parts of the car. Park your hire car somewhere safe.