You’re driving along and all of a sudden, the sky darkens, the wind starts whipping up, and you’re caught in a torrential downpour. It can happen to anyone, and when it does, it can be a very scary experience.
Mother Nature is sometimes unpredictable, so knowing how to drive safely in adverse weather conditions can mean the difference between getting out of the situation safely and being involved in a collision. Here are a few tips every driver needs to know.
What to Do If You’re Caught in a Storm
If you’re caught in a severe downpour, the first thing to do is slow down. Be as patient as possible and give yourself plenty of following distance. Remember that when you’re driving in the rain the roads can become slippery, increasing your stopping time. If you follow too closely, spray from other vehicles’ wheels can also further lower your visibility. Wet roads can also lead to hydroplaning, a dangerous condition that occurs when your tires lose contact with the road.
When the weather lowers your visibility, you should turn on your headlights, as this will make it easier for other drivers to see you. Just make sure you don’t use your high beams. This will create glare that actually makes it even more difficult to see. Also, watch out for water on the road. Never try to drive through moving water and avoid driving through standing water if at all possible. If you absolutely must drive through standing water, use extreme caution.
When It’s Time to Stop Driving
When the weather gets very severe, it’s almost always best to stop driving if you can. If possible, try to pull off at the nearest exit and seek shelter. If it’s raining so hard that you’re blinded, pull over to the side of the road, giving yourself at least a two-foot clearance. Then turn on your hazard lights while you wait for the storm to subside.
When lightning is severe, be sure to keep all of your vehicle’s windows shut and avoid touching anything metal while inside the car. This includes cell phone chargers, your radio, mobile GPS devices, the door handles, and the steering wheel.
You’ll also want to stop driving if it begins to hail since the speed of your moving vehicle will increase the impact of the hailstones. If you can get to a shelter with an awning, like a gas station, this can help protect both you and your car. Otherwise, pull over to the side of the road, turn on your hazard lights, and remain in your vehicle until the storm passes.
How to Avoid Driving in Severe Storms
Driving in inclement weather is one of the top causes of driving fatalities. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, approximately 21% of vehicle crashes are caused by weather-related issues each year.
You can often avoid these types of dangerous driving conditions by keeping an eye on the weather forecast. The Red Cross has apps you can download that will allow you to receive severe weather alerts, and the National Weather Service makes it easy to add their mobile site to your phone.
Any time you receive a warning, take it seriously. In many cases, this could mean the difference between having to navigate a scary driving situation and having the time to find a safe place to hunker down while you wait for the severe weather to subside.
Sharpen Your Driving Skills
No matter how careful you are, there’s always a chance that you could be caught in an uncomfortable driving situation. Taking one of I Drive Safely's defensive driving courses can help you become a safer driver in all types of conditions. These classes are held online, making them a quick and easy way to sharpen your driving skills. Start exploring your options today! Tips for Driving Safely in a Severe Storm or Hurricane