Tag Archives: headlights

Some advice for driving in the rain, from PEMCO

The in basket: PEMCO, the Seattle insurance company, has a quarterly newsletter I often find interesting. The newest edition has a 10-question quiz about strategies for driving in the rain that included a lot of information that was new to me. I got only seven of the 10 answers right and had to guess at some of the others.

So to spread the word, I repeat PEMCO’s rainy day primer here. Are the following true or false?

1. If possible, stick to the middle lanes when it’s raining.

2. Replace wiper blades every two years.

3. Intersections, on- and off-ramps and parking lots get slicker in the rain than other stretches of road.

4. Cruise control improves safety when it’s raining.

5. Generally, the deeper your tire tread, the less likely you are to hydroplane on wet roads.

6. Avoid driving in the tracks of the vehicle in front of you on wet roads.

7. If you skid on a wet road, brake normally if you have antilock brakes.

8. Tapping your brakes lightly after driving through a puddle will help dry them.

9. Headlight glare intensifies in the rain, so leave lights off unless it’s after dusk.

10. Posted speeds take into account rainy conditions.

The out basket: I got it wrong right off the bat when I calculated that road spray and oncoming traffic would make the middle lanes less safe. Most roads are crowned in the middle so rainwater runs toward the outside, making the middle lanes safer, says PEMCO.

Two is false. Change wipers every year.

Three is true. Road oils accumulate more in low-speed areas, making them slicker by comparison.

Four is false, contrary to what I wrote years ago when the notion that cruise control can cause a car to accelerate wildly if it breaks traction on a wet road first turned up in one of those alarmist e-mails.

I didn’t see the idea gain credence for several months, but PEMCO now says to make it a rule: Wipers on, cruise control off. At minimum, it says, cruise slows your ability to recognize and respond to changes in road conditions.

Five is true. Poor tire tread plus speed contribute to loss of traction, says PEMCO.

Six is false, it says. Tracks of cars ahead of you displace water, creating a drier surface.

Seven is true, it says. Pumping brakes works only on cars without anti-lock brakes.

Eight is true, it says, but it’s better not to have to do it at all by staying out of standing water if you can’t be sure it’s shallow.

Nine is false. Headlights should be on if the wipers are on, it says. Many cars have the headlights on whenever the engine is on, and having your lights on makes you easier to see under all conditions.

Ten is false, says PEMCO. Always reduce your speed for less than optimal conditions.

Of windshield wipers and headlights


The in basket: Susanne Hughes of East Bremerton writes, “I moved here from a state that requires a driver to turn on his/her headlights whenever the windshield wipers are in use.  I am not familiar with Washington’s laws on this subject and am wondering  when headlights are required to be used in this State.  

“Also, does Washington ever use headlight test areas for safety?” she asked.

The out basket: No state law specifically requires headlights when the wipers are on. The law that covers this says, “Every vehicle upon a highway within this state at any time from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise and at any other time when, due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of one thousand feet ahead shall display lighted headlights…”

I asked Krista Hedstrom of the Bremerton state patrol office if citations are written for violating that law when rain, snow or fog cut visibility and she said, “Yes, troopers do regularly stop drivers for this, and have written tickets for this violation during extreme weather conditions if they are not visible at a distance of 1,000 feet. The penalty is $124.  

“Depending on the situation, a verbal warning may be given and the driver asked to turn on their lights,” she said. “Other times a ticket may be issued if (the violation) causes a collision or near miss.”  

As for stretches of highway where headlight use for safety reasons is encouraged by signs along the roadside, they do exist in this state. Lisa Copeland of the Olympic Region of state highways says there is one just across the Kitsap/Pierce County line on Highway 302 just past the Purdy spit

Glare screen coming to downhill run into Gorst


The in basket: Joel Wadsworth of Belfair and Ginette Dalton recently protested the difficulty they have seeing as they look into the glare of oncoming headlights when they begin the descent into Gorst coming downhill on Highway 16 westbound from the direction of Tacoma.  

“If its raining, its 100 times worse,” said Gina. “All they need to do is put up those glare strips on top of the median that separates both directions of the highway.” They have them atop the concrete barrier just east of Gorst and also between Gorst and Bremerton and I recall how much easier they made it to see how close to the center barrier I was at night.

Joel found it particularly difficult during December’s prolonged snow siege. But “whenever I come around that corner, the lights from the oncoming cars just blind you,” he said.

The out basket:  When Jim Lawson asked for a glare screen at that location  in 2006 and Adele Ferguson before that, the state said there it would be putting its safety improvement money into more urgent needs, but this year the answer will be more to the liking of drivers who have this problem. 

Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region said they have budgeted for a glare screen to be installed there in April, and scheduling issues have moved it up. The screen may be installed the week of March 16, he said. 

He was unaware of the short stretch of glare screen that has been demolished by vandals or accidents between Gorst and Bremerton, but said he would talk with the state maintenance crews here about whether they have the money and time to replace that as well.