Rollover crash on Highway 101 in early November.
The driver of a pickup truck was injured in a rollover crash on Highway 101 in early November when the roads were wet from a rainstorm. Credit: Santa Barbara County Fire Department file photo

As the rainy season begins, drivers are encouraged to remember how to safely maneuver the wet roads.

When storms pass through Santa Barbara County, there are typically more vehicle collisions, including spinouts, reported on local roads. During the most recent storm, crashes were reported all over the county, including several at Highway 101 near the Gaviota Tunnel. 

The California Highway Patrol recommends that vehicles have tires with plenty of tread, windshield wipers in good condition, plenty of wiper fluid, a full gas tank, a working defroster, a muffler and exhaust pipe in good condition, and antifreeze in the radiator.

CHP also recommends that drivers carry tire chains, a flashlight with batteries, a shovel, flares, a windshield scraper, warm, waterproof clothing, blankets, snacks and drinking water. 

In a 10-year average from 2007 to 2016, rainy roads accounted for 51% of weather-related car injuries, according to the Department of Transportation.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has instructions on how to drive in special circumstances, such as during the rain and on wet roads.

If it starts to rain on an especially hot day, or after a long period without rain, roads are the most slippery, according to the DMV. That’s because on a hot day, heat causes oil to rise to the surface of the road, making them more slick. After a dry period, oil and dust will not yet have been washed away from the roads.

According to the DMV, the best thing drivers can do when there is a lot of water on the road is slow down, turn on the windshield wipers and low-beam headlights, and leave plenty of distance between the vehicle in front of them.

When it’s raining, or roads are wet, drivers should reduce their speeds by 5 to 10 miles per hour, according to the DMV.

“In a heavy rain at speeds of 50 mph or more, your tires can lose all contact with the road, and then your vehicle will be riding on water or ‘hydroplaning.’ A slight change of direction, applying the brakes or a gust of wind could throw your vehicle into a skid. If your vehicle starts to hydroplane, slow down gradually — do not apply the brakes,” the DMV states.

Drivers also can prepare for driving on wet roads by checking and maintaining their vehicle’s tires. Drivers should check for any tears or bulges on the sidewall of the tire, check the tread depth, and refer to their owner’s manual or the pounds per square inch indicator inside of the car door for the correct tire pressure. 

Tire tread thickness also indicates whether tires need to be replaced. According to the DMV, one way to check the thickness of tire tread is to put a penny into the deepest groove of the tire, with the Abraham Lincoln side down. If the top of Lincoln’s head is visible, the tread is too thin and the tires should be replaced. 

Drivers can check road conditions before a trip by calling the California Highway Patrol hotline at 800.427.7623 (ROAD).