Stay Safe Behind the Wheel: Traffic Laws for Rainy Days

When it comes to driving on a rainy day, forgetting your umbrella at home could turn out to be the least of your worries. It’s almost needless to mention that any driver should adapt their cruising speed when extreme weather conditions occur. But how many drivers do you think are aware of their state’s traffic laws for rainy days?

Is Driving on a Rainy Day Dangerous?

Everyone knows how much more dangerous driving conditions are when driving in the snow compared to driving on a beautiful sunny day. But few people consider the added risks that come with driving in the rain. Driving in the rain, especially heavy rain, adds many dangers. Wet roads reduce tire traction and can lead to drivers losing control of their vehicles as their tires struggle to re-engage.

Rain on the windshield and the use of windshield wipers lead to reduced visibility, which can be severe in heavy rains. When the sun comes out on a rainy day, it often feels like a relief, but if you are in a car driving towards the sun, it can be nearly blinding. Not only do you have the sun in your eyes from where it sits in the sky, but you also get glare from where it hits the wet road ahead of you.

Driving Too Fast for Weather Conditions

A highly controversial traffic law involves an officer writing a ticket for driving too fast for weather conditions. It is given when a driver speeds at times where the weather conditions don’t necessarily allow it. To avoid getting a speeding ticket, you have to respect the imposed speed limit on that particular road and appropriately reduce it if weather conditions require you to do so.

Credit: Robert Couse-Baker

The problem is that determining what speed is too fast for weather conditions is entirely subjective. No formula says if it is raining x amount, you must reduce your speed by y amount. An officer can simply decide at any time that the speed you were going at is above the safety level for conditions. Most of the time, officers give these tickets after an accident, but they can give them any time the weather is bad.

When Do You Turn Your Headlights On?

Most drivers cannot answer this question immediately—especially if they drive a vehicle with automatic headlights. While automatic headlights may bring you comfort and reassurance, the advice is not to always rely on an electric system’s “judgment.” Many states have laws that require you to turn on your headlights the same time you engage your windshield wipers.

Most states have laws about having your headlights on when visibility is reduced to a certain distance. This distance is usually either 500 or 1,000 feet, but in North Carolina, you are not required to turn your headlights on until visibility drops below 400 feet, and in South Dakota, that number drops to 200 feet.

States also require that you have your headlights on between sunset and sunrise. The precise time around sunrise and sunset can vary by state, so check your local laws to be accurate.

Hazard Lights: When Should You Use Them?

Never use hazard lights (flashing lights) to make your vehicle visible during a storm or a foggy day. Hazard lights are meant to be used for a disabled vehicle leaving or on the side of the roadway. Check out what the requirements are in your state.

Typically the only time you should turn these on while driving is if something happens to your car, and you need to get off the road. It alerts other drivers that you are leaving the roadway and may be driving at reduced speeds. However, in some states like Florida, hazard light usage is not permitted while driving at all.

Tire Safety and Hydroplaning

The first ten minutes of rain is actually the most dangerous, as the rain mixes with the oils on the road for a particularly slippery surface. When you combine speed with a wet surface, your tires could briefly separate from a slippery road, which might even lead to losing control of the vehicle. This physical phenomenon is called hydroplaning. To avoid this situation, motorists are advised to:

  • check that tires are properly inflated and in good condition
  • slow down when the weather conditions require so
  • avoid puddles
  • keep a safe distance from other vehicles
  • avoid hard and unnecessary braking

The law requires that drivers keep their vehicles in proper working order for safety. This includes changing your tires when they become badly worn. A police officer can give you a ticket for bald tires even if the weather is fine and no accident has occurred. Driving with bald tires in adverse weather conditions is extremely dangerous and can lead to both accidents and legal consequences.

Safety First, Even if That Means Pulling Over

Heavy rain, fog, or snow can sometimes get too much for a driver, especially on the highway. Driving at high speed with little visibility towards none at all can become a deadly combination.

Don’t be afraid to pull over if you feel that you are not 100 percent in control of your vehicle. To do so, you will have to slow down gradually, turn on your hazard lights, and move your car towards the side of the road. Better safe than sorry!

Staying on the Legal Side

When involved in a car crash caused by another driver’s negligence or unsafe behavior, one should seek a local law firm specializing in cases of car accident claims. Life is full of surprises, and some may not be as pleasant. Following the law is necessary, but this won’t guarantee the prudence of other drivers around you.

A qualified attorney will also be able to help if you feel you have been wrongfully ticketed, as in a case of receiving a citation for driving too fast for weather conditions. A lawyer will be able to provide you with real information, judge your situation accordingly, and think of the best course of action. Whenever in doubt, always seek an expert’s help, and don’t forget: drive safe!

Kyle Hambright is a passionate writer-representative of, who greatly enjoys raising awareness on the vast and complex field of personal injuries, his main area of legal expertise. His articles always highlight a cause-effect-solution formula that clearly explains and relates the nature of a legal issue while conclusively offering his audience a concrete resolution.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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