Whether you believe in global-warming or not, the fact is, the weather is getting worse. If this is human-related or simply a trend, is up for debate but the facts are undeniable. Russia, Australia, and California are dealing with wildfires worse than any in recorded history. Temperatures in Europe and North America are rising every year. Sea-levels are rising creating flooding across the world.
Driving during severe weather of any kind becomes more deadly than it already is. There are more than 6 million car accidents a year in the United States. According to the DOT, 1.25 million of those accidents are caused by inclement weather. From these weather-related accidents, there are nearly 6,000 fatalities. The issue is apparent, but is it really possible to avoid?
That’s a tough question, but all we can do is try. Practicing the safest driving we can is step-number one. To help with that, we’ve created a list of tips for driving in various kinds of weather.
Ice or Snow
- Slow down. This is probably the most obvious tip, but you should always slow down whenever possible. Bridges will ice over long before the regular road does. If you don’t see a bridge coming, you could end up sliding into the rear of another vehicle. Don’t forget, sudden changes in speed will drastically hurt the grip of your tires.
- Clean off your windows. Being able to see through your windows the best you can is essential to driving in ice or snow. Put the defroster on high and leave it on. Before you get in the car make sure to scrape off snow and frozen on ice.
- Brake slowly. Locking up your brakes is a great way to send you, and all your passengers, into a ditch. By braking slowly your grip to the road is far greater than abrupt stops.
- Leave more room. You always want to be at least a car length away from the vehicle in front of you, even in perfect weather. When it comes to ice and snow, you want to leave even more of a gap. Don’t be afraid to leave extra room between you and the next car.
- Keep your tires in good condition. Tires wear out quickly in harsh winter conditions. Assure that they have the proper tread depth, tire pressure and add chains to the winter tires if you need to. Having good tires could save your life.
- Don’t crowd snowplows. Never crowd a plow for two reasons; first, snow is going to be tossed off the plow and could create a problem for your vehicle. Second, it’s their job to clear the roads, the least drivers can do is give them some room to do it.
- Use your wipers. While this should be a no-brainer, always use your wipers in the rain no matter how hard it’s coming down. If it begins to pour, set those wipers to the highest speed and stay alert. Make sure you replace your wipers consistently, as well. If you don’t, you might as well not have them.
- Use headlights. Most new cars have automatic lights, but if your car doesn’t, turn them on when you’re driving in the rain. Visibility is always significantly lower during thunderstorms and rain. If you didn’t already know, most states require you to use your headlights if your wipers are on at all.
- Plan ahead. If you need to be somewhere by a certain time, give yourself extra breathing room. Rain slows down drivers and can add a significant amount of time onto your drive. It will also make you relax if you have excess time, being stressed when you drive is never good but driving in the rain while stressed is even worse.
- Pull over. In places like Florida, rainstorms can come and go in seconds. If you don’t feel comfortable driving, pull over. It’s better to be safe than end up flustered and in an accident.
- Never use cruise control. Technology is advancing rapidly, but you still shouldn’t trust it. Cruise control in the rain can be deadly. You need to have as much time to react as possible, relying on cruise control could take away seconds of reaction time.
- Low beams. Never use your high beam headlights, it actually makes visibility worse in fog. They tend to reflect back to your vehicle in fog which causes glare. Always use your low beams so you, and other drivers around you, can see better.
- Keep clear windows. External fog makes your windows extremely viable to fogging up. Use your defroster or air conditioning to keep your car a similar temperature to the outside.
- Use the road lines. When fog is bad enough, you can barely see the cars in front of you. Use the lines in the road to guide you where you’re going. Always pay attention to what’s in front of you but use your peripheral vision to watch the road lines.
- Don’t drive. If the fog is bad enough, don’t even bother driving. Fog is among the worst conditions you can operate a motor vehicle in, not going out at all could save your life.
- Be on high alert. Debris is one of the main concerns when driving in high winds. It can be anything from tree branches to roof tiles. Use extra caution in wooded areas or around construction zones.
- Keep both hands on the wheel. Many people are one handed drivers. During high winds you should always keep both hands on the wheel, especially if you have a small vehicle. Lightweight vehicles can get blown into other lanes and cause accidents.
As mentioned previously, natural disasters are rising in all areas of the world. Weather it’s an earthquake out west or a hurricane in the east, it can be extremely dangerous if you’re caught on the road during a natural disaster. All of the above precautions should be taken, but extra tactics can be more useful.
Driving is hard enough, try it while the ground is moving beneath you. The most important thing to remember is that the stability and grip of your vehicle will be lessened dramatically. Never abruptly stop, always come to a gradual stop so your vehicle can stay firmly planted on the ground. You should also try to get to open spaces. City streets are not where you want to be during an earthquake. Buildings can fall at any second, so your first instinct should be to get to clear areas.
Hurricanes are thunderstorms on steroids. Use the safe practices you would use with high winds, and heavy rainfall. Your best bet is to not get on the roads at all; but if you were forced to evacuate, keep both hands on the wheel, drive slowly, and keep farther back from the vehicle in front of you.
Tornadoes can lift cars of all sizes into the air and throw them. Never drive during a tornado warning or watch. If you were already on the road, you should abandon your vehicle, and get to the lowest ground you can find. Never mess with tornadoes.