Slick roads ahead!

OSP Trooper assists a motorist who crashed on Interstate 5, MP 70 after a first season rain.

An OSP Trooper assists a motorist who crashed off Interstate 5 north of Grants Pass after a 2019 rain shower.

September 15, 2021

Drivers should prepare now for the first rainfall of the season, which will lift oils and grime to the road surface causing slick patches on highways. The hazard often catches motorists by surprise and are often followed by an increase in crashes.

Southern Oregon problem areas include the drive down mountain passes, especially on Interstate 5 between Grants Pass and Roseburg.

“Drivers typically get caught by not slowing down and end up either sliding off the road or crashing into other vehicles or the barrier,” said interim Region Manager Darrin Neavoll. “It’s critical they change their mindset to the season and drive to the conditions.”

Rains on wildfire scars can also cause debris flows, especially on OR 138E (North Umpqua Highway). Drivers should watch for hazards in those areas.

Here are some tips for driving in the rain:

 Be aware of conditions

  • Rain can create dangerous driving conditions with reduced visibility, reduced traction between tires and the road.
  • When it’s raining, be cautious and give yourself more time to get where you are going.
  • Slow down, especially through standing water.  Driving through several inches of water at high speeds can cause you to lose control. Lowering your speed helps you watch out for sudden stops caused by disabled cars, debris and other hazards.
  • Turn on your headlights to improve visibility. Disengage your cruise control.
  • Watch your following distance.  A vehicle needs two to three times more stopping distance on wet roads.
  • Watch for emergency responders. Slow down! Give them space to work and move over!

 Maintain your vehicle

  • Check your wiper blades. Replace wiper blades regularly. Make sure your defroster is functioning properly, especially if you haven’t used it in a while.
  • Check your brakes after driving through a puddle; make sure the brakes are working properly by tapping them gently a few times.
  • Check your tire tread. Make sure tires are in good condition and are at the recommended inflation level. Tires should have at least 1/32 of an inch tread depth at any two adjacent grooves, the minimum allowable by law. Driving on over-inflated or under-inflated tires is dangerous on wet pavement.

Watch for hydroplaning conditions

  • Hydroplaning occurs when your front tires surf on a film of water. It can occur at speeds as low as 35 miles per hour, especially if tires are worn.
  • If you hydroplane, ease off the gas, gently apply the brakes and steer straight.

Know before you go!

More safe driving tips in fall and winter:


Gary Leaming, ODOT PIO – Rogue Valley, 541-621-3074

Matt Noble, ODOT PIO – Southwest Oregon, 503-779-9868