Severe weather can strike at any time of the year. It is not always possible to avoid driving during dangerous weather conditions. However, being a cautious driver can mean the difference between getting home safely and standing along the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.
Snow and Ice
Winter often brings frozen precipitation, in one form or another. Ice and snow cause driving challenges for most of us, but we can all be safer on the road by following a few key driving tips. The first rule of thumb is to take the time to properly de-ice and clean your windows. An extra 5 minutes defrosting and scraping all your windows will enable you to see others and use defensive driving skills. Once your windows are cleared, and you are on the road, keep your speed slow and consistent. In deep snow, travel at a speed fast enough to keep your momentum going but slow enough to maintain control of the vehicle. Road signs usually warn us that bridges freeze before roads. Therefore, slow down before crossing bridges and overpasses and avoid sudden changes in speed or direction.
Use extra care when braking in winter weather conditions. Braking should be slow and deliberate. If you brake too quickly or abruptly, your brakes may lock-up, causing you to lose steering capability. Anti-lock brakes will help to keep you from losing steering control in a quick braking situation. To engage anti-lock brakes, push the pedal to the floor and hold; do not pump the brakes. Ice and snow do not change the application of your anti-lock brakes – push and hold the brake pedal to avoid losing steering control. If these safety tips fail and you find yourself stuck in the snow, straighten your wheels and accelerate slowly. Try to avoid spinning your tires and, if necessary, use sand or cinders for added traction under the drive wheels.
During foggy conditions, stay to the right side of the road and turn on your low-beam headlights. If you cannot see the edge of the road, it may be safest to pull over. If you make the decision to pull off the road, be sure to pull to the far right, off of the traffic lane, and turn on your hazard lights.
Wind and Rain
Wind and rain present special challenges for drivers. If you have a high-profile vehicle such as a trailer or motor home, consider staying off the roads until the winds die down. The beginning of a rain storm is the most treacherous time to be on the road, as water mixes with road oils and dirt to create a slick surface. Be careful to avoid hydroplaning by slowing down and maintaining traction between your tires and the road surface. Turn on your lights to allow your vehicle to be seen by other drivers and use your defroster or air-conditioner to improve visibility.
Severe thunderstorms can result in tornados and hail. In the car, monitor your news radio station. If you see a tornado, the safest place to be is outside of the car. Pull over and find a ditch or other low-lying area where you can lay face down and protect yourself from flying debris. In a hailstorm, pull under an overpass or bridge to seek shelter while on the road. When a hurricane is in the forecast, head inland to high ground well before the storm approaches land.
By exercising caution in severe weather driving conditions, you can save yourself the headache of sliding off the road, having an accident, or suffering even greater damage to yourself and your property.