Rain snarls traffic across Bay Area; more on the way 

Traffic hazards in the Bay Area are a lot like pancake mix or instant coffee — it only takes a few drops of water to make things happen.

By 3 p.m. on Thursday, with rain falling on local roads, visibility had dropped, accidents had happened and local commutes had slowed to a crawl around the Bay.

In addition to a fatal crash just before 2 p.m. in Fairfield, California Highway Patrol Officer A. Paulson said traffic had slowed around the Bay Area with the onset of both rain and commute hours.

"It doesn’t take much rain to really foul things up," San Mateo resident Todd Blair said. "The highway patrol tells people to slow down and no one seems to do it."

Blair said he can see U.S. Highway 101 from his Redwood City office, and if the traffic looks thick, he often takes El Camino Real home to avoid the congestion and hazards.

Rainy commutes immediately following dry spells are actually slicker than those that come later because the water has not yet washed awaythe buildup of oils and residues in the road.

"A lot of commuters make mistakes by driving the same way in rain that they do when it’s sunny out," Caltrans spokeswoman Gidget Navarro said. "The rain loosens the oils on the road, so drivers need to slow down."

The agency is also urging drivers to slow down around work sites, after Caltrans employee Sean Merriman was struck and killed by a car while fixing potholes in the rain along Highway 101 last April.

During wet commutes, drivers should keep a higher "visual horizon," by looking farther down the road than normal to watch for brake lights, stopped vehicles or other problems.

"Drivers need to keep their eyes up and pay attention; it’s all these things that we learn in driver’s education that no one does," Paulson said.

With rain forecast until the middle of next week, the CHP is encouraging drivers to check their tires for proper tread and pressure and give themselves time for a safe, cautious commute.

"We expect the storm that is coming to cause more traffic delays, but we hope that those will be more from water pooling on the road than crashes," Paulson said.


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