Rain and Southern California Drivers

Rain and Southern California Drivers

Written by Brad McDermott on Apr 18, 2014

The radio talk show host, Jim Rome once said, “When it starts raining in SoCal, people start driving their cars into buildings.”  This was confirmed by my friend and colleague, Raul Garcia, as he tells the story that when he was conducting driver training in an area that passes by a collision center, he noted how the parking lot filled up with crunched cars a day or two after every rain fall. 

I assert that the rain is not the only culprit for the crunched cars.  The rain only reveals the problem.  We don’t have good driving habits as drivers.  In everyday life here in Southern California we are constantly “multi-tasking”, a coined idiom suggesting that humans can do two things at once, which is actually impossible (cite forthcoming).  One cannot truly divide their focus.  Either one focus is “automatic” or people switch back and forth.  However, no one is able to truly focus on more than one thing at a time. 

When switching focus in driving, people take it for granted that they can drive in “automatic” mode.  They rely on the assumption that they will look back to the road in time or tune back in from whatever conversation or thought with which they are engaged.  They are also relying on the ability to stop quickly on a normal road surface. 

The difficulty of driving on a wet surface further complicates the challenge.  In this video, and in the DMV Handbook, the biggest danger is during the first 30 minutes of driving.  The idea is that once the rain washes the oil off the road, it become easier to drive.  While this is generally true, it is important to note that here in Southern California there are other things to consider...

As the video reminds us, when it rains, the surface is far from normal.  As it rains, oil rises to the top and creates a very slick surface.  Unlike other areas in the US, or the world for that matter, it rarely rains here, and often does not rain long enough to truly wash the oil off the road.  In Southern California, we also have an extraordinarily high density of traffic, thus creating high volumes of oil in the road.  All of these factors come together to give southland motorists the “bad driver” reputation.  Let’s work together to change this for all.

First of all, how would we drive if we were driving on a sheet of ice?  Albeit the road is not that slick, the habits we must employ will help us to change our mindset.  The following hints come from our collective experience and the DMV handbook.

  1. Create space: Normal following distance is 3 seconds, so increase it to 4 or 5 seconds.  This give you more time to react and to stop, if needed.
  2. Look 10-15 seconds head:  Scanning for distant changes in traffic (brake lights, for example) gives you more time to act safely, rather than react to a "sudden" change in traffic.  Remember, 10-15 seconds is about one city block, or about 1/4 of a mile on the freeway.
  3. Have patience self and others:  Better to get there a few seconds or minutes later than not get there at all.
  4. Plan for emergencies:  If you do find yourself in an emergency, such as hydroplaning or skidding, have a plan.  Take your foot gently off the gas and brake, then coast until you can feel the tires reconnect with the ground.  You also want to steer the car gently; no sudden turns.  
Be the change you want to see, and we'll make the roads safer for everyone; one driver at a time.

See you on the road!

-Brad

Rain and Southern California Drivers

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