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How to React to Extreme Weather When Driving

How to React to Extreme Weather When Driving

Reacting to extreme weather graphic

With the Northeast being inundated by storms, and El Nino in full swing, knowing how to handle hazardous driving conditions could help you get from point A to point B no matter what weather gets thrown at you.

General Tips

No matter where you’re driving, there are a few things that you should always remember. First, make sure that you and all of your passengers are strapped in correctly.  This includes children in age and weight appropriate child seats. Keep up with your cars maintenance as well, to make sure that your car doesn’t break down at an inopportune time. Finally, keep your gas tank full and if you can avoid driving in hazardous conditions, then avoid or postpone your trip.


What you’ll experience - Snow/Sleet/Ice

Before you even get into your car, make sure you clear as much snow as possible from your car, focusing on the headlights, windshield, hood, and roof.

Avoid areas that you know will be snowy or icy, like bridges or unplowed roads.  Stick to the plowed areas wherever possible, and don’t slow down or stop in areas where driving is difficult, such as on hills, because you may not be able to get moving again.  Be mindful of areas where driving can be treacherous, such as sharp curve, and take them with care.

If you do hit ice or snow and lose control of your car, keep your feet off the accelerator and the brake. Anti-braking systems, or ABS, don’t work on ice and may end up locking up your tires and compromising your control of the car.

While no one wants to get stuck in the snow, it does happen on occasion. If you do get stuck, stay with your car and put a bright marker on the window or antenna. Lastly, if you do need to use the car to stay warm, do so sparingly and make sure that you keep the exhaust pipe clear.


What You’ll Experience - Heavy Rains/Hurricanes

Heavy rain reduces visibility, making it harder to see the road and the cars around you.  Avoid using your cruise control, and pay attention to the distance between you and the car in front of you. Rain increases braking distance, and heavy braking can lead to your car hydroplaning. Low areas where water can collect should be avoided for the same reason.

If you do find yourself hydroplaning, make gentle changes to your direction and keep your feet off the brake and accelerator.  Braking or trying to speed up can cause you to lose control completely.


What You’ll Experience - High Winds/ Tornadoes

Be mindful of your surroundings.  High wind gusts are the worst in open areas and around bridges. Large trucks and RVs are more strongly affected by strong wind gusts, so to avoid accidents it is important to be mindful of their locations on the roads.

Inside the car, make sure you keep a firm grip on your steering wheel so you can compensate for direction changes. Tune your radio to a local station and keep an ear out for weather alerts that may affect your trip.

If a tornado does form, don’t panic. Don’t stop in any areas where you are not able to take immediate shelter, and don’t get out of your car unless absolutely necessary. Finally, don’t try to run from a tornado if you spot one. If you have no other choice, try to move at 90 degree angles away from the tornado’s pat.


What You’ll Experience- High Heat/Drought

High temperatures are as rough on cars as they are on people. Pay attention to your engine’s temperature to prevent overheating. If the temperature spikes or your car starts to overheat, pull over immediately. Also, make sure your tires are properly inflated.  Under-inflated tires run hot and can burst if they become too hot while you’re driving.

Heat is also tough on your battery. If you’ve got a battery that is older than 3 years, get it tested regularly to make sure it’s up to the task.

Finally, make sure that all of your passengers are properly cooled and hydrated during your trip.

Pacific Northwest

What You’ll Experience -Rain/Fog

Foggy weather may not seem difficult to drive it but it can present unique hazards.

Don’t use your high beams when you’re driving in the fog. The fog will reflect the light back, making it harder to see. If you’re having trouble seeing road, focus on the outside line to guide you.

If you’re having trouble seeing or are worried about your driving in foggy conditions, pull off to the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights so you are visible to other drivers on the road.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.



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