words Alexa Wang
You might think you’re a superb driver, and your record backs that up. Maybe you’ve had your license many years, and you’ve avoided accidents up till now. If you obey all traffic laws, never speed, and don’t let anything distract you, those all probably play a part.
However, even if you’re an excellent driver, sometimes you might run into some bad luck. It could be a drunk driver, someone texting on the highway, or something else beyond your control.
Weather contributes to car crashes more than you might think. Sudden weather events can ruin your perfect driving record, so you need to watch out for them just as much as you do unsafe drivers.
Here are six potentially lethal weather conditions.
Wet roads can affect a driver’s response time, even if you’ve been a safe motorist for decades. A wet road can cause a driver:
- To skid
- To lose vehicular control for a moment
Four-wheel-drive vehicles do better in the rain. Maybe you have one, and perhaps you don’t, but the rain causes more crashes than nearly any other weather event.
If you see via the weather forecast that rain’s coming, you might put off a trip you have planned. When you have little choice but to drive in the rain, make sure you turn your lights on and go slower than usual.
Rain and speeding are a lethal combination that causes many crashes that drivers can avoid if they slow down.
If you reside in a temperate climate, you don’t have to worry about snow very much, except as a freak occurrence. However, many parts of the country expect snow during the colder months, which is another dangerous driving condition.
With snow on the ground:
- Your car might stick in one spot
- Your vehicle might skid off the road or into another car
Many of the same rules for both rain and snow apply. For instance, if you know there’s snow coming, don’t drive unless you have no other choice. You should also slow down, turn your lights on, and use your windshield wipers.
You also might consider getting snow tires for your vehicle. A garage can keep them for you, and you can put them on when you know the cold weather isn’t far away.
You might also consider getting a four-wheel-drive vehicle if you live in a snowier region. A sports car doesn’t make much sense if you live in Colorado or Wyoming.
Hail is more common in some regions than others. It’s a relatively rare weather condition, usually happening in colder climates in the fall or winter.
Even if you’re not driving, hailstones are no fun. They’re ice balls that can sting if they strike your bare skin.
If you’re driving, and it starts hailing, you can turn your lights on, drive slowly, and use your windshield wipers to clear your vision. However, if it’s hailing hard, it’s best to pull over.
You don’t want to be tardy getting to wherever it is you’re going, but with hail bombarding your vehicle, you can’t drive safely. Wait till things have calmed down before you venture onward.
You can encounter fog all over the country with the right atmospheric conditions. It’s even quite beautiful if you’re watching it from home. Seeing it creep across the ground might make you think of the Scottish moors or Sherlock Holmes’s late nineteenth-century London.
There’s nothing fun about driving in it, though. With thick fog, you can’t see more than a few feet in front of you. You can turn your lights on, and even your high beams if you need them.
If you have your high beams on, though, you can blind a driver coming from the other direction. That’s why you must quickly turn them off if someone approaches.
If the fog is too thick, pull over, or cancel your trip, unless it’s vitally important. Fog causes many car accidents, and whatever you’re doing, it’s seldom worth it trying to navigate when it’s pea-soup-thick.
If you’re driving in thick fog, slow down to a crawl. Now isn’t the time to see how fast your vehicle can go. A pedestrian or another car can appear in front of you, and you won’t know it till you’re practically on top of them.
California and Oregon wildfires are in the news this year, burning many acres. It’s tragic, with networks reporting many fatalities.
If you live in these regions, you shouldn’t drive if there’s wildfire ash obscuring your vision. If you have to get in your vehicle with your family to get away from the wildfires, you have no choice, and the same snow or rain rules apply.
Drive slowly and carefully, and use your windshield wipers to clear the ash away as best you can. As you go, watch out for stalled cars, accidents, or any other road blockages. You might have to do some fancy maneuvering to avoid vehicles with panicked drivers who ran into each other or inanimate objects.
Ice is something you may encounter in colder regions. In the winter, you can expect it in some places, and it’s another significant accident-causer.
If you see ice on the road in front of you, slow down. If you’re turning on the ice, and you start to skid, take your foot off the accelerator.
Don’t hit the brakes, even though it’s tempting. Steer carefully away from the skid, and make sure not to overcompensate. If you do hit something, at least you’re going slower when it happens, and hopefully, you should avoid any serious injuries or damage.
There is a common factor with all of these conditions. If you can avoid driving when you know encountering them is likely, do it. Put off your errand, or take public transportation.
If you must drive, avoid distractions. Go slower than usual, and be ready for anything. Some people drive more recklessly in bad weather, and you need to watch out for them.