Driving in the Rain in Florida – Don’t Panic

wrRain is just a part of South Florida living. If it weren’t for the volume of the precipitation that we get, this area would not be as lush and beautiful as it is, and it wouldn’t draw the thousands of transplant residents and tourists that it does. Unfortunately, it seems to create panic in a lot of our drivers.

We have all seen this happen. One minute traffic seems to be humming along just fine, then four fat raindrops fall and brake lights start lighting up like Christmas decorations in Times Square. We get A LOT of rain here. Whether its hurricane season or just another of the thunderstorms which seem to occur daily, the chances of you having to drive in wet weather are great. In fact, it happens so frequently that some of us barely even notice these storms anymore.

It is no coincidence that there are so many traffic accidents during or just after a rainstorm. Invariably one of two things happen. Either many drivers have a knee-jerk reaction and start slamming on their brakes, while many others fail to adjust their driving habits to the conditions that exist at the time. The latter of the two reactions can result in the issuance of the notorious “driving too fast for conditions” traffic ticket.

Oh, this is a tricky little ticket. I say that because no matter the circumstances, if you have an accident anywhere in the country, whether due to rain, snow, sun glare, potholes, whatever, you can receive a traffic citation for “driving too fast for conditions.” Isn’t that convenient? It is tantamount to the law saying there is no valid reason for having a traffic accident – you must have just been speeding. This paves the way for a cop to write you an arbitrary traffic citation using very little rule of measure other than his own discretion.

According to Florida GS 316.183, “No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.” There’s that word again that you so often he me hear me quote when I am making reference to Florida traffic laws – prudent.

Ah, prudent. The use of such language in our Florida traffic law statutes makes the interpretation of those laws rather vague and open to individual interpretation. It also makes it easy for cops to find reasons to issue traffic tickets. In some cases, however, it is helpful to a good traffic ticket attorney who can often find loopholes in the validity of your traffic ticket. After all, standards such as “reasonable” and “prudent” are subjective to all parties involved.

You should still seriously consider how you react when it starts raining. Try not to endanger yourself or others by reacting suddenly. Always try to give those around you plenty of warning that you are going to slow down. Slamming on your brakes in a panic only increases the odds of being in a traffic accident.

For those of you who take the approach to a sudden rain storm of “Just continue to drive as usual,” consider modifying your current driving habits so they are better suited to the South Florida weather. Think about the various factors that occur which exist only when it is raining. This includes those drivers that do overreact and also the reduced traction that occurs when there is water on the road. The former results in other drivers not being able to anticipate the actions of someone who gets a little freaked out while driving in the rain – which often leads to car accidents. The latter issue is complicated by not only the loss of traction, but also oil from previous vehicles being lifted off the road surface by the rain. This just makes the break in traction even that much more dangerous.

When it comes to our exciting yet scary tropical storms that we get, there are variables that need to be considered. The volume of rain can be highly unpredictable – those four fat rain drops I mentioned early can evolve into a steady rain one minute and a torrential downpour the next which can obfuscate your view. When you factor in the rolling in of dark clouds suddenly that add to reduced visibility, elderly drivers, teenagers, and the inexperienced tourists who are unsure how to react to our unique weather patterns, and those drivers who just don’t know what to do in bad weather, then our roads and highways take on the semblance of a billiards table.

It can become a trying experience for those of us who are used to Florida’s erratic weather as we play dodgeball on the highways trying to keep away from those drivers who are freaking out or otherwise reacting inappropriately to the conditions. Fortunately for those of us who are accustomed to such hairy driving conditions, there are those who immediately hit their emergency flashers which is the same thing as the driver yelling out the window, “I am a lousy driver who doesn’t know how to drive in poor weather so keep AWAY from me.” No problem, buddy. Quit taking up two lanes, and I will gladly pass you so you are no longer a threat to my well-being.

Obviously, much of what I say here is tongue-in-cheek because I am a huge proponent of safe driving; however, when your fear response is so great that it puts others at extreme risk, please just pull over and allow others to proceed safely. There is nothing so urgent that you need to risk your welfare or that of anyone else. Besides, with the weather in Florida, the likelihood of this storm lasting for an extended period is quite small. Stopping for a soda or bottled water will probably give the storm adequate time to move out of the area. There is no need to point fingers because these drivers know who they are.