Everyone wants to drive under clear skies in the perfect weather, so driving during poor weather is not for the fainthearted. While the cliche advice for driving in the winter months is “stay at home when it snows”, this tip is unrealistic.
People have to leave their houses for various reasons, whether for emergencies or essential duties, like work. However, the winter months pose dangerous driving conditions caused by snow piles, ice, fog, and so on.
Most collisions and accidents in the winter happen because of poor driving habits. It’s important to take necessary precautions when driving in extreme weather. From car prep to lighting tips, here are seven rules for driving in bad weather:
1. Look out for the weather forecast
If you must drive in bad weather, the first thing to do is to check the forecast. If you don’t have access to the radio, there are mobile apps that provide accurate daily weather reports. This helps you predict what to expect on the road, such as closures. Plan your route according to the report and learn the roads to avoid.
Dress according to the weather, even if you don’t plan to step out of the car for long. In the cold, keep as warm as possible and wear gloves to protect your fingers.
2. Prep your car before driving
Next, prepare your car before driving in weather. Clean the car’s headlights and taillights, as well as windshields and mirrors since there’s a high chance of low visibility. Dust your car using an ice scraper if covered in snow.
Keep a full gas tank to avoid getting stranded in poor weather. A lower gas level can freeze faster because of condensation. Get your car winter-serviced to prepare for the weather.
Warm your car for about one minute before leaving. Switch on the car heater to defog the windows and windshield as soon as you move. Use the windscreen wiper at intervals to optimize visibility.
3. Maintain moderate driving speed
Maintaining a slow speed limit is the most important rule for driving in poor weather. Wet roads on rainy days can be slippery because of the mix of oil and water. Speeding in this condition leads to collisions.
Driving slow allows you to manage the low visibility associated with unstable weather. Stay cautious when approaching the highway and roadblocks.
Keep your eyes on the road and prioritize staying in control of your wheels. Cut down your speed to at least 10 miles per hour in the first few minutes of your drive. You can go lower until you feel comfortable navigating the weather. Avoid driving on flooded roads because unsafe water depths can switch off the car abruptly and damage the engines.
4. Keep a safe driving distance
It’s harder to slow down when driving on snow. Your car takes at least 12 times longer to halt on icy roads, compared to drier roads. Leave adequate space between your car and the one in front of you in traffic. Measure the distance by slowing down for up to three seconds after they pass a landmark or object.
Keep up this distance, even if a car cuts in front of you. Driving too close to the vehicle in front can cause a collision if you come to a sudden stop.
5. Look out for black ice
Black ice or clear ice is a thin coat of transparent ice that blends with the road during winter. This clear ice is a notorious cause of winter road accidents because of its high transparency. Slippery black ice is hard to detect, especially when driving at night. It takes the color of the asphalt on the road, misleading unsuspecting drivers.
Most times, black ice stays on bridges and corners that get limited sunlight during the winter. Look out for water spray on your tires and on other vehicles. Keep your steering straight and don’t use the brakes if you feel your vehicle going over ice.
6. Use headlights in extreme weather
Foggy weather limits visibility and clouds your windscreen. In extreme weather, do your best to see the road as clearly as possible. You’d need to observe the vehicles ahead and detect black ice and obstacles to avoid an accident.
When it’s hazy, turn on the fog lights to help you see the road. Use low beam lights to help you and other drivers see. Using high beams can blind other drivers putting you at the risk of an accident. Switch white lights to a yellow setting and keep them low to light up the ground.
7. Use the white lines as a guide
During heavy rain, keep to the middle of your lane. Rainwater gathers up in corners and hides potholes and sewer holes. Straying from the center of the road can damage your car or cause an accident at worst.
For driving in foggy weather, use the white lines to guide your alignment to the road. The lines in the middle are hard to detect since the fog limits your vision. However, the white lines on both sides of the road are easier to see. Keep your eyes on these lines and use them to navigate the road.