Bad weather is very common and it’s responsible for most road accidents. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 70% of weather-related accidents take place on wet roads and 46% when it’s raining.
It’s crucial to practice safe driving when there’s heavy wind, rain, fog, snow, ice, and sleet. Most importantly, extreme weather conditions, such as tornados, hurricanes, electrical storms, and torrential rain, require more safety.
If possible, you can postpone your trip and stay at home instead of deciding to drive under such extreme weather conditions.
Here are typical bad weather conditions, and what to do to drive through them safely:
Snowy or Ice Conditions
When it’s snowy, it’s prudent to lower the driving speed about 10 mph below the existing driving speed. If after reducing the speed, it still feels iffy, you may cut back an extra 5mph until you feel comfortable.
Take note of black ice
It’s almost impossible to see this gaze, but it’s usually clear when you’ve got your headlights reflecting off the road, especially at night. Black ice often forms on bridges that trap cold, under tall building shadows where the sun can’t reach, and at road intersections because of drains. That said, when there’s bad weather, always learn to slow down a few hundred feet before the stop lights and signs.
When driving on a highway, keep three to four car lengths between your vehicle and the one in front of you. This distance will give you enough room to stop if the driver ahead of you brakes suddenly. Besides, you can use the headlights of the car in front of you to see what’s ahead.
Turn into a skid
Stay calm, let go the brake and gas pedals, and turn your car in the direction it’s skidding. For instance, if you slide to right, then gently steer the car to the right. This action helps to cancel out a skid, as the car self-corrects and goes straight. If you try this step and everything fails, and you can do this safely, then leave the road and drive into a snow bank.
Drive with both hands on the wheel and stay focused 100%. Avoid using any electronics, including hands-free phones because they’ll distract you.
Carry an emergency kit
When it’s snowy, you need to carry an emergency kit in the truck regardless of the length of your trip. Anything can happen when you’re far away from home.
Turn on your fog lights
To find this switch, check the dashboard or the same lever that regulates the turn signal. However, you may also use low beams. Typically, the fog lights are yellow, making them cut through fog more effectively than white lamps. Furthermore, they’re lower to the ground, which makes the beams to illuminate the road pretty well.
Apply the brakes before you enter a fog bank
This action alerts any cars behind to back off. If you wait to enter thick fog to apply brakes, you risk being hit from the back.
Slow down before driving over a hill
Be more careful when driving over a hill because you might not easily see if another vehicle stopped there.
Avoid flooded sections of the road
It may be difficult to tell how deep the water is. This is a dangerous scenario. If the air intake valve sucks water or water gets to the engine, chances are the car will shut off.
Slow down by 5-10 miles per hour
Sometimes, your car may hydroplane and lift off the ground. At this point, you’ll be driving on a water layer. Should this happen, don’t panic. Instead, slow down till the vehicle gains normality again.
Feather the brakes after driving through a puddle
While at it, don’t forget to take your foot off the gas pedal. This action produces heat and friction that helps to dry off the brakes.
Turn on the headlights
This is important whether it’s daytime or at night because visibility often reduces when it’s foggy, which often comes with the rains. Headlights make it easy for you to see other road users and for them to see you.
Avoid hydroplaning by keeping your speed at 35 mph or lower
The reason is, tires tend to get better traction on a wet pavement when you’re driving at lower speeds. Therefore, by driving at a reduced speed, you’ll have adequate time to react to:
- Any traffic slowdowns
- Disabled cars
- Sudden traffic stops
- Standing water that may splash onto the windshield
- Debris that the rain is moving to the road
Don’t tailgate another car when it’s raining. Give adequate distance between your car and the one ahead of you. Think of three to four car lengths or twice as much stopping distance.
Prepare Your Car for Bad Weather Conditions
- Clean headlight covers: When headlights stay in the sun for long, they finally turn cloudy or yellow, which may cut the amount of light they emit.
- Inspect windshield wipers: Check the windshield wipers and replace any that has cracked rubber. Some areas are prone to massive ice and snow. If you’re from these areas, invest in winter blades because they shed ice more effectively.
- Check tire treads: Here’s a simple, classic technique to try: put a penny into the grooves of your tires in different places. When slipping the coin into the tread, ensure Abraham Lincoln goes into the tread headfirst. You know the tires are worn out and need replacement if you can see the head of the president’s top.
- Get the car winter-serviced: When winter is approaching, it’s best to add winter-grade fluids, which resist freezing. These may include oil, anti-freeze, and windshield-wiper solution. Also, keep the levels topped up throughout the winter season.
- Carry an emergency kit: When driving through bad weather, always carry an emergency kit in your car’s trunk. The kit should include a blanket, road flares, duct tape, a shovel, an air compressor, a flashlight, an ice scraper, a towrope, and jumper cables. In addition, carry dry food, toilet paper, warm clothes, and water.
Additional Driving Lessons Can Go a Long Way to Keep You Safe
Learning more about the right techniques for driving in rain, snow and other adverse weather conditions is a life saver. Most importantly, defensive driving lessons can help lower your auto insurance premiums and equip you with skills that’ll keep you safe when behind the wheel.