Whether you are a native to South Florida or someone who has moved here to enjoy the beaches, warmth, and other benefits of the Sunshine State, it doesn’t take more than a season or two to realize that 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 here. Some of us barely even notice such storms anymore.
The types of tropical storms that we get create many variables that need to be considered beyond just the rain when driving. The level of rain can be unpredictable – a steady rain one minute and a torrential downpour the next that obscures your view. Add to that the dark clouds that suddenly come rolling in that tend to also reduce visibility, the elderly and 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, and our roads and highways take on the appearance of a pinball machine. Those of us who are accustomed to such weather are just trying to dodge those driving at 10 mph with their hazard lights while gripping the steering wheel. You can often see these drivers’ lips moving as though praying while trying traverse the two inches of water sluicing off the road.
I am all for safe driving, but when you reach such a level of fear of driving through these types of conditions that you that you become the greatest hazard on the road, it’s time to pull over and have a cup of coffee. This is South Florida; generally, if you wait 15 minutes, the weather will change.
If you are one of these drivers, and you know who you are, there are other concerns that you need to consider. Not knowing how to travel safely in the rain in South Florida can result in getting a traffic citation. Many drivers in Miami-Dade County residents seem to not understand the laws that govern driving in the rain which results not only in traffic accidents, but also the issuance of a lot of traffic citations. Here are a few simple tips that can help you avoid both:
Slow down: Keep in mind that it is much more difficult to control your vehicle in the rain. The loss of traction that often results while driving not only makes it much harder to stop, but unexpected hydroplaning can result in your car ending up someplace that you never intended it to go. If this ends up resulting in an accident and a cop shows up, you are likely to be charged with being at fault. You could receive several different types of traffic tickets – careless driving, reckless driving, and driving too fast for conditions can all cost you significantly. The trickiest of these charges is driving too fast for conditions as it is not a term that is clarified by the State of Florida general statues which makes it arbitrary. Too fast for conditions is based solely upon the discretion of the responding officer.
Move over when you can: Modern roads, especially highways, are engineered so that water drains off to the sides as opposed to pooling in the center. Consequently, the likelihood of hydroplaning is significantly reduced by moving to the center lane. Hydroplaning results from your tires losing traction with the road resulting in the car not traveling in the direction that you intend. This lack of control is often what leads to the various types of traffic tickets that you can receive.
Turn on your headlights: With most cars these days, the headlights come on automatically when you start the car. If your car is one of the few models that doesn’t do this, make sure that you turn your lights on whenever driving conditions are not optimal. This applies not just to rain, but cloudiness, fog, darkening of the skies, or any other event that can diminish your ability to see or be seen. If you have ever been traveling under any of these conditions and see a gray, silver, or black car, you realize that headlights can make a big difference in visibility. Do NOT turn on your hazard lights or your parking lights. Not only do these not comply with the headlight law, but they also do not make your vehicle as visible as head- and taillights. I would estimate that 60% of drivers do this in the rain – you are neither parking nor in an emergency situation; you are simply driving in the rain.
Watch out for tourists: The rainy season is not exactly when out-of-towners flock to South Florida. Generally, they are looking to enjoy our balmy winter weather and escape harsh winters up north, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t get our fair share of tourists on the roads during the summer. Because there are few other states that experience the types of torrential downpours that occur in Florida, these tourists have no idea how to navigate through such storms. These are often the people I referred to earlier – check the license plate and you’ll notice many of those drivers who are driving extremely slow, emergency flashers on, and muttering to themselves have out-of-state plates. Keep in mind also that not all states require drivers to operate with their headlights on. You have to be extra vigilante in watching out for these drivers and giving them a little more room.
Our volatile weather is not the only reason that a change in driving habits need to occur in South Florida. The same impetus that brings so many tourists to our area can also cause people to drive more aggressively – the often unrelenting heat. When you combine that heat with the heavy traffic flow we experience, otherwise rational people may find themselves with tempers flaring. Throw into the mix an accident that may have already happened or areas where pedestrians may be present and the odds of accidents or injuries go up greatly. We all just need to keep in mind that everyone who is driving in South Florida has some place to go and will get there eventually as long as we follow the rules of the road and give everyone the room they need to negotiate safely.
If you do get a traffic citation in Miami-Dade for reckless driving, driving too fast for conditions, or aggressive driving that result in an accident, the police officer doesn’t always have the last word. Many times the cop’s version of events is based upon his supposition if he is not present at the time the accident occurred. Always keep in mind that one of the things that he uses in make his assessment is what you and the other driver say, so don’t confess to anything and keep your conversation minimal. We at the Traffic Ticket Team have years of experience in taking these traffic tickets and finding the flaws that may exist in the cop’s assessment of what happened. Give us a call for a free consultation at (954) 967-9888 so that we can advise you as to your best course of action.