Why Do Most People Drive at The Speed Limit in Wet Conditions?

I live in metro Melbourne and rarely drive in regional areas.

Today, I was driving on the Hume Freeway, and the rain was significant at times. Even though I felt it is quite unsafe to drive at the normal speed (110km/h), most drivers seemed to care less. I felt that I might lose grip. I ended up driving around 95-100km/h on the left lane to see vehicles piling behind me before overtaking.

What would you do in these conditions?

Poll Options

  • 804
    Drive at the normal speed
  • 280
    Drive 10-15 km/h slower
  • 42
    Drive 10-15km/h faster


    • +410 votes

      I think this highlights actual vs perceived capability. 4wds, especially dual cab utes, perform terribly on wet roads. They are heavy with a high centre of gravity giving them long braking distances and making them inherently less stable. This is made worse by off road tires which provide low grip on wet roads compared to road tyres. On top of this they are far more dangerous to other road users because they hit them at a higher point on the car. People that choose to drive 4wds have a responsibility to drive more slowly and carefully.

      • 100% agree with this.

      • Couldn't agree more.

      • 100% this. I didn't realise until I drove my brother's dual cab in the wet a few years ago. The thing was seriously sketchy and felt like it was going to slide out from under me at any second… it even had pretty new tyres on it…

        Meanwhile my humble Impreza is virtually as solid in the wet as it is in the dry with the low centre of gravity and always on AWD. Definitely way more comfortable in this little hatch than the big 4x4 in the wet.

        • No doubt. Which model? To provide extra traction in the wet, I put my dual cab in 4x4 (unlocked centre diff).

        • The real issue is that most of those '4wd's are only ever 2wd. The 4wd mode locks the diff and you cannot use it on the roads (unless you only drive in straight lines). Pair that with the fact that there is no weight on the back of utes and vans, and they're super dangerous.

          Try driving awd's or big fat european SUV's that are 3 tonnes, they stick to the road real well.

        • Its not, if you think its the same in the wet you are wrong, f1 cars even arent the same in the wet

          • @Franc-T: I did say "virtually as solid" not "exactly the same". Obviously actual grip and braking/cornering ability is inhibited by the wet… But it still drives really well given the conditions and unlike many FWD cars I've owned, I never get any kind of loss of traction etc. which is easy to achieve when accelerating a little too heavily in a FWD vehicle.

      • People who think dual cabs are safer have obviously not driven one around a roundabout at like 20km/hr and still had the back fishtail on them. God damn colorado's man.

      • BAM!

      • I find these guys in the fast lane 9/10 on the Western Ring… flyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy by

        • No one has the right to tailgate someone doing the speed limit whilst overtaking a car in the right lane. Literally putting that persons life at risk all so they can speed to their destination a few minutes quicker.

      • +1 vote

        This guy gets it

      • Too true. The kind of car you drive influences your driving style, and many people in these larger cars act like they're driving tanks.

        The Simpsons got it right once again

      • Nominating this for OzBargain comment of the year.

      • Just got a 2wd ute for work. I'm DEFINITELY driving -10km less in the wet, this thing's tail flys out in the dry if you're not careful.

      • It seems that @Hybroid's self-assessment of (his own?) driving skills might be a problem.

      • Here's a perfect example showing just how easily some tradies rolled their utes - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_OQ-bdfRX0

        The centre of gravity is lower in these utes versus the Ford Rangers and Toyota Hiluxs'…..dual cabs / 4WD's roll over way too easily - better not tell all the mums at school!

        As for the OP's poll - I drive to the conditions. If it's raining I only lower my speed and increase the distance between me and the car in front if warranted by the conditions….sadly many people can't

        • That's not really a good example - almost any car would roll in that situation where they're at speed and then jag sideways suddenly.

      • Good luck with that. they are almost always driven by arrogant "I'm bigger so get out of my way" style tossers, and there are more of them on the road now than ever before.

        They are also extremely ugly vehicles, don't know why they are so trendy.

      • Maybe he mean what most people say is AWD. Constant 4x4 is safer than 2WD

      • Victorians as a whole are the worst Drivers in Australia.

      • As much as i dislike to stereotype but im going to in this case and say most people who drive around in those Toorak tractors have a tendency to ignore the welfare others and enjoyment of the road for anyone but themselves and their hideous mechanical monstrosities.

      • People that choose to drive 4wds have a responsibility to drive more slowly and carefully.

        LOL, good one, come down to Melbourne where SUVs/4x4s rule the road (or at least they think they do).

  • The speed limits on our roads are set to the "lowest common denominator" already.
    The highways are designed so that excess water runs off to the side of the road.

    And some cars are better than others on wet roads.

    • The highways may be designed that way but a short drive to the nearest highway during rain to see the puddles everywhere and lack of runoff to the sides demonstrates that they are not built that way and/or they don't stay that way.

      • Seems you live somewhere where they don't know how to build highways.

        • I only recently got my P's, and finally got around to doing the drive from Newcastle to Sydney. I could not believe how bad the road on the m1 was for about 75% of it. Cracks everywhere, uneven slabs, POTHOLES (so many in Newcastle anyway).

          It did not feel worth it, and will only do it again if I have to take anything more than a couple of bags. I don't know why people don't just get the train.

          I was much more comfortable on the Golden Highway going out to Dubbo. It actually felt maintained.

          • @DragonautDruid: Last time I drove from VIC to NSW was in 2012 and it wasn't that bad. Certainly better at the time than where I lived, which is neither state.

          • @DragonautDruid: The M1 north of the Central Coast is absolutely wrecked. Its amongst the busiest road corridors in Australia and yet it hasn't been refurbished since it was built in the late 80s-90s. Must have something to do with Newcastle being a safe Labor seat.

          • @DragonautDruid: You think thats bad?

            Try driving on the north side of wisemans ferry , catch the ferry back and then drive back down to sydney.

            Let us know if your car survives.

          • @DragonautDruid: You get used to it and can kind of prepare for the less ideal pieces of road. I have to admit though, it seems to have been improved somewhat over the last year.

            It does feel strange that a major road connecting big cities in a developed country is so poor.

          • @richadam: It is likely. Though Australia is big so it's stupid to assume all highways are bad.

            • @Clear: Even the new highway recently built from Brisbane to Grafton has parts where I would not want to drive the speed limit in the wet. And that stretch was finished last year.

      • The motorways that are at set at 110km/h are generally quite well built. They're designed for 130km/h+.
        There are some older sections that haven't been resurfaced for a while but they can still handle 110km/h quite easily. .

    • That's not how speed limits are set. I'm not a road designer but I'm in the field, thats not how road design works.

      People are meant to leave a 3 second gap between cars, which gives a good distance for emergency braking. People do not leave this gap, even in wet conditions.

      • That's not how speed limits are set. I'm not a road designer but I'm in the field….

        So how are they set? They definitely don't use the 85th percentile method that many other safety regulators around the world recommend. The speed limits we have are 10km/h or more under that 85th percentile speed, especially at speed camera zones!

        • 85 %ile speeds are certainly a thing of the past. Roads are generally designed for safety, not to facilitate the highest speed possible on the road.

          Roads are commonly over-designed to the design speed - for example, a road may be planned to be 60 km/h, but they'll design for 70 or 80. I'm not sure why, but I imagine it increases the safety without impacting too much on the cost

          I could see your comment about speed cameras being true, but I suspect the cause and effect are switched. Speed cameras are a road safety tool, so they are situated in locations where behaviour change is sought - i.e. where the 85%ile speed is greater than the posted limit

          Edit - in terms of how speeds are set, it depends. New roads will be designed to a certain speed, existing roads will be given a default speed of 40/50/60/80/100/110 based on road type, with speeds then altered to account for local conditions where required

          • @dinna89: They over design the road for safety reasons. However when designing a road to a specific design speed, the parameters they adjust such as lane width and curvature are based on older cars, so newer cars with better handling can go faster on these roads. Furthermore since the roads are designed to accommodate higher speeds than the speed limit, this encourages people to speed as they feel they can go faster safely.

            It creates a paradoxical scenario where over designing a road for "safety" actually makes people behave more dangerously.

          • @dinna89: Hey quick question. I come across this on regional roads (VIC) quite often where certain roads where you can easily/safely to 100 are limited to 80 BUT more importantly quite a few single lane roads (i.e where you need to go onto gravel for vehicles coming in the opposite direction) and blind spot hills are 100. I would barely want to do 60-70 on some of those sections. Problem is (some) people see the speed limit and blindly stick to it thinking just because a sign says so, it should be fine.

            • @gimme: Unfortunately our Aussie obsession with the number in the red circle means most drivers have no idea how fast they should travel.

              We’ve been trained by years of ‘speed kills’ lessons and ever improving vehicles and roads and have forgotten how to actually drive to the conditions.

            • @gimme: I think there are a few things at play here.

              The default speed limit in rural regions is 100km/h. Unless there's a reason to change it, such as a history of crashes, or community complaints, there's no reason for it to be changed. Lower traffic volume roads will get away with some pretty bad road conditions.

              Also, roads in Vic are owned by either VicRoads or council (or transurban). I'd suspect that many of the roads with higher limits that seem unsafe are council roads. Council resources are stretched, they don't go out looking for problems to fix

              • @dinna89: Thanks makes sense. Vicroads are just as useless. They can't even clean up graffiti off signs, overpasses and general roads which is why most parts of Melbourne look like ghetto dumps these days

          • @dinna89: No, speed cameras are a revenue raising tool.

      • Yeah, that's pretty much all it is. Anyone who leaves a 3 second gap can drive at the full speed under any condition. If you leave a 1m gap at 100km/h you'll always be in car crashes all the time no matter how good you are.

        The exception is if you're a truck driver in which case you need to abide by those special rules.

        • In wet conditions I will leave a gap longer than three seconds.

          • @trongy: Doesn't work, people merge into your safe gap.

            • @dinna89: In which case I slow down to increase the gap as I'm driving according to the road conditions. In my experience, people merging into the gap doesn't happen nearly as much during a heavy downpour compared to when it's dry and I'm driving with a three second gap.

              • @trongy: That's the logical and sound response

                My response is to irrationally fume at the person who merged in, as if driving is a zero sum game and I'm losing

            • @dinna89: If that gap is a suitable size, it makes very little difference to your forward momentum. Ease off a touch and you're back to 3 seconds. Piece of cake.
              Also reduces the concertina effect which causes traffic to slow down to a crawl. No need to jam on your breaks if the gap in front is big enough to allow someone to merge.

      • Try doubling that in wet weather.

      • most people in sydney during peak hour don't know what 3 seconds gap is. making me think, is it my fault when someone hit me from behind?

      • People are meant to leave a 3 second gap between cars, which gives a good distance for emergency braking. People do not leave this gap, even in wet conditions.

        Do you think people would leave a 3 second gap in the wet?
        Because they shouldn't, they should leave a 6 second gap.

      • People are meant to leave a 3 second gap between cars, which gives a good distance for emergency braking. People do not leave this gap

        These people who think it is 3 seconds saved until it ends up costing them a lot of money

  • Your car and/or tyres may be rubbish.

    • I reckon OP is not from QLD. Otherwise he/she would have asked:

      Why do most people drive at the speed limit wet conditions speed all bloody time?

    • Call it an investment. Rubbish houses are worth a lot if you call it an investment.