Credit: Courtesy

As winter approaches, and with it the increased chance of rainy weather, California High Patrol (CHP) is offering Santa Barbara County residents a few tips for driving safely on wet roads this holiday season.

During the last two days of rain this past November 7 and 8, the CHP responded to 21 traffic crashes on the Nojoqui Grade between Buellton and Gaviota — a significant increase from the previous two, rainless days, during which the CHP responded to no collisions. These crashes ranged from non-injury to one fatal crash.

According to Michael Griffith, a CHP officer in Buellton, there has been an increase in collisions during the past few months on the Central Coast. There have historically been spikes of collisions during the rain, particularly during the first rains of the year. However, Griffith noted that during the rains earlier this month, “the spike was even more significant.” 

He listed some of the ways residents could drive safely this winter:

  1. Slow down. Even if you’re following the speed limit on a highway, you should take weather conditions into consideration. If it’s pouring rain, with puddles along the highway, drive at the speed that is safe for roadway conditions to prevent hydroplaning.
  2. Give yourself a space cushion. Speaking of hydroplaning – Griffith advises residents to avoid “driving in packs.” Give yourself time to react in case of a sudden stop to prevent hydroplaning and/or a collision. 
  3. Check tire tread prior to driving. It’s important to check your tire tread prior driving at any point, but especially when it’s raining. Front tires should be more than an 8th of an inch in depth, with the rear more than a 16th of an inch in depth. Griffith noted that a good way to see if your tires are in good shape is by holding a penny upside down into the tread. If the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head is visible, your tread is too shallow. 
  4. Check your windshield wipers. During the summer, people’s wipers can get brittle, making it difficult for them to work properly when it’s pouring. Since these are essential to drive safely in the rain, check their condition and replace them if needed.
  5. Turn on your headlights. Visibility is compromised when it’s raining – headlights can improve this. 
  6. Turn on your defroster. Since rain brings an increase in humidity, your windshield can fog up and make it difficult to see. Your defroster can help combat this. 
  7. Consider postponing your drive. If your outing is nonessential, it might be safer to wait the rain out, or at least until it lets up a bit. 

“A lot of the injury and fatality collisions have been a matter of people not driving safely for roadway conditions,” Griffith said. He mentioned the importance of avoiding driving under the influence, especially as the holidays approach, and spoke about the importance of seatbelts in preventing fatalities. 

“Some of our injury and fatality collisions that have happened recently, we’ve noticed that people are not properly restrained – they’re not wearing their seatbelt,” Griffith said. “In particular, it’s parents that aren’t making sure that their kids are restrained properly in a car seat, and it’s unfortunate because these are really preventable.” 

If you need assistance to install a carseat or want to check if it’s properly installed, you can call your local CHP office in the county and ask for a car seat technician to help you. 

Closer to the holidays, Griffith says CHP will begin doing saturation patrols. This means the CHP of Santa Barbara and Buellton will be sending an increase of officers to the Central Coast to get people to slow down and to enforce traffic rules. 

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