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Tips for afternoon driving

Most drivers seem to be handling the heavy rain fine, but not all of them. Here are some suggestions for your afternoon drive, based on what I just saw on the roads.

Don't relax. The midday rain has been coming through in waves. You might find it has lightened up, only to encounter a sudden, blinding downpour.

Turn your lights on. It's the driving-in-rain safety step I hear most often from travelers, and they get really annoyed when they see other drivers failing to take this basic precaution.

Watch passing vehicles. Things may be going fine when you're suddenly blinded by a passing car, truck or bus that covers your windshield in spray or kicks up gallons from a puddle.

Watch for potholes. The storm has opened up some new ones, and they are sometimes hidden under pools of rain water.

Watch for pedestrians. Children will be coming out of school with their hoods pulled over their heads. Just as you're having trouble seeing them, they are having trouble seeing you. Also, use caution and slow down as you drive in lanes adjacent to sidewalks. Pedestrians are wet enough today.

Watch for emergency vehicles. I can't recall a day when I saw so many ambulances and firetrucks.

Be careful changing lanes. I saw some dangerous lane changes in which the lane changer wasn't able to see a nearby vehicle because windows were fogged up. Signal well in advance of a lane change, and crank up the defroster.

Watch for standing water. I know this tip should be obvious, but I saw plenty of cars traveling too fast when they hit puddles or ran through more extensive areas of flooding. The heavy waters come and go. A spot that may have been fine when you first passed through could be flooded when you return.

By Robert Thomson  | September 30, 2010; 12:58 PM ET
Categories:  Advisories, Driving  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock  
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Regarding defroster usage: Many older cars do not automatically run the AC system when the front defroster is engaged, and on a humid day like today often that just means more fogging. Run the AC if you have a fog problem and adjust the temperature to a warmer setting if it's too cold (the AC need not be run solely at cold temperatures). AC systems dry out the air and so can be very helpful in defogging the windshield, which is why many newer cars automatically engage the AC when the climate control is set to defrost.

Posted by: 1995hoo | September 30, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: 1995hoo, thanks for the AC/defrosting tip. In this tropical air, window fogging may have been the most widespread problem I saw on the roads just now. Drivers seemed to be having extra trouble with their side windows and side mirrors.

Posted by: Dr_Gridlock | September 30, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Good advice, 1995hoo, but most of the problem goes away if you just clean the insides of the windows now and then. This also helps drastically with sun glare for those who have to drive facing into the sun. If you haven't done it in a while, you may need to clean them several times to fully get them clean.

Posted by: rjm1 | September 30, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Good point. I just assumed people would keep their windows clean because I go nuts when mine are dirty, but I guess it's probably not reasonable to assume that anyone around here would do anything reasonable. :-)

Posted by: 1995hoo | September 30, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Re cleaning windows: Anyone have a suggestion for a good cleaning tool to get into those tight spaces between the windshield and the dashboard?

Posted by: landlaw | September 30, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Oh, come on now rjm1. Do you REALLY expect me to clean the inside windows? That uses up so much of my energy!

Posted by: mbrumble | September 30, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't they invent a car that, when you turn on your windshield wipers, your headlights and rear lights would turn on also?

Posted by: dstrachan | September 30, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Jeep grand cherokee's of the mid 1990's used to turn lights on when wipers were on.

I was (not) amazed at the number of cars without lights on this morning. Silver cars are the worst without lights; you can barely see them.

Posted by: yell53 | September 30, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Traffic lights are out at Connecticut Ave NW and Veazey Ter NW. Police officer is on site, leaning against her police cruiser watching the cars trying to make turns and pedestrians trying to cross. She doesn't actually do anything except observe.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | September 30, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

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