An open letter to daytime running-light enthusiasts

Looking through windshield during rain by Sharlyn Petit

If you were out on our Puget Sound roads this past Saturday, there may have come a point where you were caught in the lovely storm system of heavy rain and flooding.

Cliff Mass reported between >1 and 4 inches of rain around Puget Sound and the Olympics and Cascades, and Tacoma’s Stadium Bowl endured storm damage (and a temporary waterfall) that will keep it closed until February 2016.

How and why I found myself driving on I-5, I-90, I-405, and SR 520 all in the same afternoon is my own fault, but you daytime running-light enthusiasts made a white-knuckle drive even worse by not fully turning on your lights in a torrential downpour.

To those of you I saw out on the road (or didn’t see, rather) driving with only your daytime running lights, or no headlights of any kind, please take note.

Know the features of your car and if your daytime running lights actually activate your taillights as well. Most of the cars I followed on Saturday had taillights illuminated only when the driver braked. Not helpful. Also, be sure to check your bulbs regularly to make sure they all work.

Wipers on, lights on. This is actually a state law in some parts of the U.S., but Oregon and Washington’s lights guidelines are sunset-to-sunrise and when visibility is less than 1,000 feet. With inclement weather, plus the misty spray making visibility worse, make a habit of turning your lights (both headlights and taillights) fully on. Don’t just rely on auto-settings.

Take it slow and steady. When cruising through the type of rain that pounds so aggressively that your windshield wipers can’t keep up, slow down, stay in your lane, and allow for extra time to execute driving maneuvers. To the silver Toyota who cut me off on the 520 bridge, your car is the same color as the sky, the road, the rain, and the spray; I didn’t need you floating into my lane at the midspan only to guide me with no taillights.

I’m far from perfect driving in the rain. I’m likely the super-slow one nearly on the shoulder, or the one freaking out at a gas station just trying to wait it out. So, I apologize for this mini rant. I have my own driving-in-the rain quirks to deal with.

But turning on your lights is an easy fix! It will help you see the road better, and it will help those around you see you and drive better, too.

P.S. – I also apologize to the woman on 5th and Mercer who I accidentally splashed. I saw you there, but the puddle was way deeper than I thought.

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