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The Dos and Don'ts of Rainy Weather Driving

It should go without saying, but don't be this guy.
It should go without saying, but don't be this guy. Photo by Abrahan Garza
While it appears we will dodge a bullet when it comes to potential-Hurricane Barry, seeing a storm rumble through the Gulf of Mexico should not only trigger some Harvey-related PTSD, but remind us that during hurricane season, we often have to deal with bad weather. Forget the wind, water kills most people in tropical storms, both the storm surge and the rainfall. If anyone understands this, it's Houstonians.

Yet, despite our experiences living along the Gulf Coast, there are still those who don't seem to comprehend the unwritten rules of driving in the rain, whether that is the result of a tropical disturbance or just a big Texas thunderstorm.

Do...turn your lights on.

Sure, it's darker when storm clouds are overhead, but the lights aren't for your benefit in this case. It's so other drivers (and pedestrians) can see you coming. If you are barreling down the road in a dark-colored car in a rainstorm, there's a good chance you are virtually invisible to anyone looking at you head on...unless you turn on your headlights.

Don't...speed and tailgate and use your phone and behave like a general jackass.

This should be the norm every day. The time we saw that woman on the West Loop putting on her eye makeup and driving with her knees, however, taught us otherwise. If you think this behavior is dangerous — and you know you do even if you do it anyway — it is doubly perilous when it is raining. Slow down and pay attention. Give a wide birth to other cars. You can probably barely see the road. Neither can anyone else. You are all a danger to each other, so act like it.

Do...avoid side streets you know flood easily.

Often in flash flooding situations, the larger, more well-traveled roads present the safest path. They tend to have better drainage, lighting and are often higher off the ground. Additionally, there are more cars on the road meaning you have the opportunity to witness what happens to those in front of you before it happens to your car. On side streets, you can't always know what dangers lurk and how high flood waters will get. Avoid the short cut in a rain storm.

Don't...drive through water with an undetermined depth.

You would think after years of rain storms and floods in Houston, no one would find themselves stranded at an underpass or on a feeder road in three or four feet of water. You'd be wrong. Impound lots fill up with waterlogged vehicles after every flash flood no matter how minor because people misjudge the water depth or simply don't pay attention. The result is thousands of dollars spent in towing fees and repairs, if your vehicle is salvageable at all. That's assuming you didn't drive into a waterway like a bayou, in which case your very life would be at grave risk. They say "turn around, don't drown" for a reason.

Do...pull over if you have to.

Speaking of that, if the rain gets really rough, pull over. Find a high spot at a gas station, grocery store, parking garage or mall and wait it out. Unless we are in the middle of another Harvey, which is highly unlikely, you'll probably be stuck looking at your phone for a while and eventually get to where you are going. It's a lot safer and more relaxing in a parked car out of the storm than in one on a flooded roadway.

Don't...drive at all if you can avoid it.

Ultimately, as Joshua, the very smart computer in '80s hacker/nuclear war flick War Games, opined, "Sometimes the only winning move is not to play." Maybe you get stuck at work. Maybe you hang with some friends or simply stay home if you are already there. No point in going on potentially flooded roads unless it is an emergency. Days like these are why God created binge watching.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke