How To Drive Safely in Hazardous Weather Conditions

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While it’s best to avoid travel during hazardous weather conditions whenever possible, you may find yourself in a situation where you must brave the streets. It’s understandable that this prospect may trigger anxiety or fear when venturing out, but following some basic tips on safe driving can help you reach your destination safely.

Plan Ahead

During hazardous weather or in anticipation of it, plan your trip in advance — even if it’s a short trip. Check weather and traffic reports and plan a route. Pay close attention to any road restrictions or closures that might affect you. It’s also a good idea to share your plan with someone you know who could take action if you don’t arrive as expected. There are even smartphone apps that allow you to share your location in real time during a trip. This may provide more peace of mind and assistance in the event of a problem along the way.

Ensuring that your vehicle is well-maintained and stocked is important for any trip, but especially during inclement weather. Be sure your tires are in good condition and properly inflated (don’t forget the spare tire!), all lights and turn signals are working, and keep your gas tank as full as possible. Keep your vehicle stocked with jumper cables, water, and a phone charger. In cold weather, add warm clothing, de-icer spray, and an ice scraper to the list.

Reduce Your Speed

This simple strategy is important to follow in any adverse conditions. Keeping your speed to a reasonable limit can help you avoid skidding, sliding, spinning, etc. and makes it easier to come to a quick stop when necessary. Use your best judgement based on the traffic, road conditions, how your car is reacting, and your ability and comfort levels to decide what speed seems safe.

It’s generally not a good strategy to just go the same speed as other drivers you see on the road. They may have more experience, more capable vehicles, or they may be driving faster that they really should be.

Reducing your speed does have limitations, though. For example, if you only feel safe driving 10 miles per hour but traffic is moving at 40 miles per hour around you, it might be safer to stay off the roads until conditions improve. Also keep in mind that even if you are driving at or below the posted speed limit, police officers can issue speeding tickets if they feel you are driving too fast (or slow) for the current road conditions.

Increase Your Following Distance

Adding distance between your vehicle and those in front of you will give you more room and time to react and take action as needed. This is beneficial under any road conditions at any speed but it becomes increasingly important when road conditions deteriorate. Sometimes just having an extra half-second of time could be the difference between being in a collision or avoiding one.

It makes sense that a vehicle will be harder to stop quickly when the roads are wet, but it’s also true in any conditions when driving downhill. Increasing your following distance is vitally important to drive safely in the mountains, for example.

Avoid Making Any Sudden Moves

You may get into a situation where you have to slow down or stop quickly, steer out of your lane or around an obstacle, or maybe even accelerate to avoid a collision with another car. Taking these unplanned actions at a moment’s notice can be dangerous, but especially when road conditions are poor. Paying attention to the road ahead of you, keeping your speed down, and leaving plenty of room between you and other vehicles is a great way to be “ready” for the unexpected and can give you the extra time needed to respond safely and successfully. It’s also important to accelerate, brake and steer in a controlled manner during poor road conditions to avoid losing control of the vehicle.

Practice and proper planning can give you the skills and confidence you need to travel safely when staying off the road is not an option.

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