Picture the ideal day for driving. It’s probably mild and bright without a cloud in the sky. Unfortunately, the weather rarely complies with our driving wants and needs. Most peoples’ first choice would be to stay off the road during inclement weather, but sometimes life beckons. Whether you’re commuting to work or embarking on a road trip when a storm hits, how can you prepare for bouts of bad weather and keep yourself–as well everyone else on the road–safer?
Plan Well Ahead of Time
You can’t control the weather, but you can certainly control your preparedness for any situation you encounter on the road. Before you leave the house, check the weather. Sunny skies could turn to thunderous clouds over the course of a few hours. Look into all possible routes to see if you can avoid the worst of the storm, and leave early so you have enough time to reach your destination without rushing.
Bad weather is not the time to discover that you have a vehicle malfunction. J.D. Power recommends having your vehicle checked more frequently during seasons of bad weather like winter, and making sure that your windshield wipers, headlights, and mirrors are in working order before you pull out of the driveway.
If you live in a cold climate, pack a winter survival kit in case your vehicle gets stuck or disabled in the snow. The basics include, but are not limited to:
- Windshield scraper and small broom
- Flashlight and batteries
- Energy-rich snack foods
- Warm clothing and blankets
- Grainy material for traction
- First aid kit and pocket knife
It’s Raining, It’s Pouring
A little rain never hurt anyone, right? When it comes to driving, wet roads and impaired vision actually increase the likelihood of an accident. Almost everywhere in the U.S. experiences rain at least once a year, and some states can expect steady annual downfall. One of the best preventative measures you can take is increasing the space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Edmunds suggests aiming for a six-second gap to be on the safe side. If wet and humid conditions create fog, use your low beams to maximize visibility.
Hold onto Your Hat
It’s not just obvious tornado and hurricane-induced winds that drivers need to consider. Hurricane winds are considered 74 mph or faster, but the weather service puts out advisories for much lower speeds. In wind-prone states like Florida, the advisory covers sustained winds between 25-39 mph, or gusts at 57 mph. Robert Molleda of the National Weather Service explains some associated risks: “If winds are above 30-35 mph for extended periods of time, it can be an issue for high-profile vehicles on bridges and overpasses. Also, tall objects such as construction cranes can be hazardous in those winds.”
Sounds like a recipe for potential damages, doesn’t it? As for driving in gusty conditions, The Telegraph suggests that drivers should ease off the gas, brake steadily, and hold the steering wheel firmly to maintain control against the onslaught. It goes without saying that windy occasions are not the time to speed or tailgate. Even so, drivers can’t always react in time to others on the road or blowing debris. Drivers need to protect their vehicles and themselves against these weather-associated risks by having adequate insurance coverage, not just the minimum required by law. For example, if you’re in the Sunshine state, legal Florida auto insurance only equates to PIP, or personal injury protection coverage. However, chances are you’d need more coverage than that if you were involved in a weather-related accident.
Ice, Ice Baby
Snow and ice are beautiful from the vantage point of a warm house, but the story is much different from inside a car. Follow these guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) whenever possible to reduce risk when your tires are on ice or snow:
- Steer into a skid
- Stomp on antilock brakes and pump non-antilock brakes
- Give yourself longer stopping distances
- Rehearse maneuvers during the daylight in an empty lot
- Avoid fatigue and rotate drivers when possible
With proper preparation, the right protective measures, and practiced defensive driving skills, you’ll be more ready to take on the elements in your vehicle. It’s preferable to stay home, but if you absolutely have to be out and about, stay safe and slow down.
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