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How To Drive Safely In Bad Weather

By Abbey Wagner, InsWeb
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Winter is upon us, which means bad weather and dangerous driving conditions are common. It is more important than ever to practice safe driving techniques in typical winter weather conditions such as rain, wind, snow, ice, sleet and fog. It is even more important to practice safety in extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes, tornados, torrential rain/snow and electrical storms. If possible, it is best to postpone a trip and stay home rather than drive if there is an extreme weather system moving through your area.

Here are some tips for driving in bad weather:

  • Plan ahead. Driving in bad weather usually takes longer and is more stressful. If you did not leave more time to reach your destination and are consequently running late, this will only increase your stress level and could adversely affect your driving. Also, check the weather before you leave. If you can take an alternate route to avoid the brunt of a weather system, do so. You may also want to consider postponing your trip until the weather has improved. If you decide not to postpone, carry a map with you to prevent getting lost when visibility is low, and to show you alternate routes if necessary.

  • Drive Slowly. This accompanies the above item; you should drive more slowly than usual in bad weather. This decreases the chance of skids and accidents.

  • Leave Room In Front. Many experts recommend doubling the "cushion" between you and the car in front of you when you are driving in rain, snow, sleet, etc. Brake time is slower in these conditions, and you must allow yourself more room.

  • Make Sure Your Equipment is in Working Order. Have your tires and brakes checked more frequently in the winter months. Make sure your windshield wipers are in working order and that your headlights are clean. Dirty headlights can significantly reduce visibility, especially in bad weather. Clear your windshield and mirrors of ice or frost before leaving, and keep them clear with your wipers and wiper fluid during the trip. If you need to pull over to scrape ice or snow, be sure to do so in a safe place.

  • Use Your Low Beams in Fog. Turn on your headlights (make sure to use your low beams, not your high beams) in fog, whether you are driving through it at night OR during the day. Your low beam headlights not only help you to see, but also help other cars to see you. It is also very important to maintain a large following distance in fog and to drive slowly, as you may not see things like another car or a traffic light until it is nearly upon you. Stay close to the right hand side of the road in fog to avoid going over the center line into oncoming traffic.

  • Listen To The Radio. Listen to a radio station that offers road condition information at a low volume during your trip. The station may offer alternate routes or inform you of road closures and such. Keep it at a low volume so as not to intrude on your concentration; you need to be very focused when driving in bad weather.

  • Drive Slowly. This accompanies the above item; you should drive more slowly than usual in bad weather. This decreases the chance of skids and accidents.

  • Buckle Up! Be sure you and your passengers wear seatbelts at all times. Not only is it the law in most states, it can also save lives, especially when driving in bad weather.

  • Pull Over if You Need to. If you are at all tired, pull over (at a safe spot totally off the road) and rest your eyes. Don't be afraid of the time you may "waste" by pulling over, it's certainly a better risk than that of getting in an accident. Also, if the weather is suddenly particularly bad, it may be a good idea to find a safe place to pull off the road and try to wait out the bad spell. If the poor weather involves deep snow or heavy rain, be sure you are not pulling over into a deep puddle or snow bank.
The above are just a few of the ways of helping you and your loved ones stay safe during the winter months.
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