Drive Safely in Hazardous Conditions
Driving in hazardous conditions does not necessarily require super driving skills. There isn’t a class to train you to drive better in the rain, fog, snow or sleet. It just requires that you be aware of the poor driving conditions that you find yourself in and adjust yourself accordingly. Also, you need to be cognizant that other drivers will most likely not adjust to the hazardous conditions and continue as if everything were a bright sunny day. All you really need to do is slow down, don’t follow other vehicles closely (give yourself plenty of room to stop) and know that the vehicles around you are most likely going to do something completely unsuitable for hazardous driving conditions.
Rain is fairly dangerous, and most drivers don’t take it as a serious threat. However, it’s incredibly easy to hydroplane. Much easier than you’d think. It doesn’t take much at all. Even with good tire tread you can hydroplane. It occurs when you drive too fast on rain-covered roads. Or, when your tires are worn down, even just a little. If the puddle is deep enough to fill the grooves of your tires you can hydroplane. You know that old penny trick to check your tread? You only have to the top of Lincoln’s head. That’s not a deep puddle at all but it’s enough to lose control. If you notice that your car is now surfing on the road, slow down. Your tires will regain traction. If you have anti-lock brakes, braking lightly is safe to do.
Driving in snow, sleet or ice is highly treacherous. Each snowstorm presents differently, so it’s even more difficult to drive in than the rain. Plus, as more cars continue to drive on the snow-covered roads, the conditions change. Just be aware of a few things when driving in the snow, sleet or ice:
- Bridges freeze
- Change lanes only when necessary, and do so carefully
- Stay in the far right lane
- Drive through the tire tracks of the vehicle in front of you
- Test your brakes when you first hit the road to gauge necessary reaction times
- Two words: black ice. It’s nearly impossible to see, and incredibly dangerous. All you can do is take your foot off the brake and hope your vehicle stays straight.
Fog is also a hazardous driving condition. If thick enough, you can’t see 10 feet in front of you. It’s best to just avoid driving in fog altogether. But if you absolutely have to, treat it like any other hazardous condition and drive slowly. Do yourself another favor and turn off the radio. You’re going to need your ears as well to tell you what’s going on around you. The only other thing you can do is turn on your fog lights. High beams will further obscure your vision. The fog just refracts the bright light and reduces the distance that you can see clearly. If you’re preparing to brake, tap them to alert the driver behind you. And as with snow, stay in the far right lane. The less lane changes you have to make the better. Plan out your turns ahead of time and give yourself and other vehicles plenty of notice.
If you take anything from this, know that the best practice is to drive slowly and increase your following distance. Some accidents are unavoidable, but we want you to be safe on the roads, especially in poor driving conditions. Recognize that the conditions may not be optimal, and adjust accordingly.