6 Tips to Drive Safely in the Snow and Rain
When the weather turns inclement, the roads can become a nightmare. Even experienced drivers might feel a shake in their confidence when snow and rain start falling. And there’s a good reason for this hesitation. There were 1,235,145 weather-related crashes between 2007 and 2016, which accounted for 21% of total vehicle crashes.
While there’s no foolproof way to stay safe on the road, you can increase your chances by driving safer. Here are a few tips for driving in snow and rain that you can think about the next time storm clouds start gathering overnight.
First and foremost, make sure your car can handle wet pavement or icy conditions. This means checking on a number of common maintenance items before you hit the road. Top off all of your fluid levels, including your brake fluid and wiper fluid. It could be deadly to run out of either during a downpour. Also, make sure your wipers are functioning correctly, as they’re imperative for seeing the road in front of you when the precipitation starts coming down.
Tires are another critical thing to check. It’s common for them to lose a bit of air when the temperature drops below freezing. You’ll want to make sure they’re inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended PSI. That way, you’ll get the most steering control, which could be important if you start sliding.
Finally, check the battery to make sure it’s charging correctly. While it probably won’t give out on you in the middle of the highway, you may find that winter’s cold temperatures drain an end-of-life battery while you park during an errand.
Visibility is often limited in rain or snowstorms, which is why you need to focus as much as possible on the road in front of you. Avoid any driving distractions that could take away your attention, such as talking to passengers, listening to the radio, or eating snacks. Naturally, you’ll also want to put your cellphone down and skip the temptation to text or chat.
Part of staying focused also means staying alert, which you can’t do if you’re tired. At times when keeping your eyes open seems like a chore, do yourself a favor and pull over for a quick rest. Driving tired means you’ll be slow to react, and reaction times are crucial during inclement weather.
It’s possible to skid during both rain and snow. When it’s raining, hydroplaning is the term used to describe this phenomenon. It happens because the engine oil and grease accumulated on the roads are gathered in big puddles, causing your tires to lose traction when you ride over them. Skidding in the snow is often because of black ice, which can be nearly invisible until you’re right on top of it.
In both of these cases, your first step will be to take your foot off the gas. Resist the temptation to slam on the brakes and jam the steering wheel straight; in most cases, this makes you lose control even more. Instead, try to come to a gradual stop, turning your steering wheel in the direction of the skid until you have control of the car back.
If rain or snow starts falling in the middle of the day, you might feel silly switching on your lights. After all, you can still see the road just fine. Headlights aren’t always for you, though. They also make it easier for other drivers on the road to see you from farther away.
There are times when you may not want to use the lights. Sometimes in heavy snowstorms, lights can highlight the already blinding-white snow and make it harder to see. And there’s often fog in thunderstorms that obscures the road more with bright lights. Use your best judgment about whether or not your lights are helping or hurting.
It should be obvious, but when it’s raining or snowing, don’t speed. Not only will you probably get a speeding ticket, but you’re also putting your life and the life of others on the road at risk. When you speed, you’ll find it much harder to come to a stop. That’s because your tires will have less of a grip on snowy or wet pavement. If you try to make a hard stop, you may even start skidding out of control.
There’s also the chance of coming across debris or slow-moving cars during a storm. If you’re blazing down the road, you’ll have less time to react to an obstacle.
While you’re making a conscious effort to go slower than usual, you should also focus on giving the car in front of your more space. Typically, a three-second gap is acceptable when driving behind someone. But in rain and snow, you won’t be able to stop as fast if they come to a quick halt. That’s why you should give cars in front of you at least a six-second gap in inclement weather.
To test this out, look for a notable object in front of you. When the car ahead passes that object, count how long it takes you for you to pass it as well.
In locations that get a ton of snow, upgrading to snow tires is a must. These help you get more traction on the road thanks to deeper tread patterns. But even snow tires can’t help much when you get multiple feet of snow and ice. For these occasions, chains will be your best friend. These strap on to your existing tires and give you ultimate traction. Keep in mind that they are rather damaging to the pavement, so check your local regulations about when and where you can use chains.
Your windshield wipers should be running as soon as the precipitation starts, as this helps to keep your visibility at a max. Make sure you clear away any snow or ice from your windshield before you start driving. Waiting for it to melt on your drive could create a blind spot in your vision that gets you in trouble.
Finally, don’t hesitate to use your defrosters. You may have to play around to find the best temperature depending on the weather, but once you do, keep it going so you don’t fog up.
Even the safest drivers can still get into an accident. Have the peace of mind of being covered with Bluefire Insurance. Learn more about our auto insurance or contact us today for help setting up your policy.
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