Overcast, rainy days might come to mind when you think of Washington state weather. While annual rainfall varies across different regions of the state, Washington received an average of 43.89 inches of precipitation in 2021. Federal Way, Washington, averages about 41 inches of rainfall per year. From winter storms to flash flooding on Highway 99, Federal Way and its surrounding roads get their fair share of rain. All this rain can create significant safety issues for Washington drivers. A study by the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies found that traffic fatalities are 34% more likely to occur while driving in heavy rain. Even light rain increases the risk by 27%!

To help you stay safe on slick roads this year, use this must-know information when driving in the rain.

Even light rain increases the risk
of traffic fatalities by 27%.

Major Safety Impacts of Heavy Rain

Heavy rains can cause flash flooding and landslides in the Federal Way area, both of which are extremely dangerous. During excessive rainfall, flash flooding can be caused by storm drains backing up, dam or levee failure, overflow from rivers and other bodies of water, and similar factors. Flash floods can sweep away cars, tear up trees and vegetation, and destroy buildings and other structures. Just six inches of moving water can knock a person down, while two feet is enough to sweep a vehicle away. Flash floods often occur with little to no warning.

When there is heavy or prolonged rainfall:

  • Stay home when possible
  • Never drive through moving water or over a washed-out roadway
  • Avoid areas prone to flooding, like low spots, drainage ditches, dips in the road, stream beds, and canyons.

Landslides and mudslides are also dangerous side effects of heavy rain. Areas with erosion issues and poor slope stability are especially vulnerable. Highway 18 in Federal Way suffered from landslides in the spring of 2022, and the risk is present any time the region receives heavy or long-lasting rainfall.

Watch for these landslide warning signs:

  • Land movement
  • Changes in patterns of stormwater drainage on slopes
  • Small slides
  • Flows
  • Unusual sounds of rushing water
  • Rumbling sounds
  • Progressively tilted fences, trees, or utility poles

You can learn about higher-risk areas of Federal Way by checking the Critical Areas Map, which identifies high-risk zones for erosion and landslides and other features of the area.

Safety Tips While Driving In Heavy Rain

  1. Replace your windshield wiper blades every 6-12 months. Utilizing wipers and your car’s defroster to keep your windshield clear can be helpful in misty rain conditions.
  2. Turn your headlights on when it is raining, but not your brights. Washington requires drivers to turn their headlights on in conditions of poor visibility, like those caused by heavy rainfall. However, high beams will reflect off wet surfaces and can bounce back into your eyes, especially when it is misty or foggy. They can also temporarily blind oncoming drivers, which is why Washington law requires drivers to turn off high beams within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle.
  3. Leave a greater following distance. This helps avoid accidents and also helps prevent road spray kicked up by the vehicle in front from obstructing your vision.
  4. Slow down significantly in heavy rain. You are less likely to hydroplane below 35 miles per hour.
  5. Pull off the road when conditions become unsafe. When in doubt, wait for better weather to make your trip.

What To Do When an Accident Happens

While these tips help prepare you to drive on wet roads around Federal Way, rainfall and the conditions that surround it can, unfortunately, increase your risk of getting rear-ended. When you are involved in a car accident or motorcycle accident, experienced car accident attorney David Ranz is ready to help protect your rights and negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf. Call or text Ranz Law at (206) 429-5227 for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

Even light rain increases the risk of traffic fatalities by 27%.