Sometimes, all drivers on the road may be challenged by bad driving conditions due to bad weather.
Most drivers get their driver's license under normal weather conditions, they are stressed out because they don't know how to adjust their driving to a safer mode during reduced visibility, poor steering, or braking ability.The truth is that, despite the poor weather conditions on the road, the driver is obliged to adjust his driving to a much safer driving according to weather conditions.
Drivers should not underestimate the need to make adjustments in their driving technique because, in the US, statistics found that 24% of all crashes occur during adverse weather conditions such as fog, ice, snow, and rain.
Here are some tips for driving in bad weather:
What is bad weather
Adverse weather conditions can be described as changes in weather requiring the driver to exercise special caution and adjust his normal driving behavior.
Driving in bad weather risks
Understanding the risks of driving during bad weather
For all drivers, the road safety significantly worsens during rain, snow, fog, ice, and extreme temperatures.
These forms of bad weather create hazardous driving conditions, which I'll describe below.
1. Rain driving risks
Abundant rain or thunderstorms need to keep the drivers cautious about their driving behavior.
Wet roads can lead to reduced tire grip and increased stopping distances. This may potentially cause your vehicle to hydroplane.
Hydroplaning is a phenomenon when the vehicle speeds into a flood of water and loses its firm grip on the road and the steering wheel. When the vehicle glides on water, turning the steering wheel doesn't impact the movement of the vehicle.
- During hydroplaning, lift your foot off the accelerator.
- Let the vehicle coast without turning the steering wheel until you feel that your vehicle gets traction again.
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated and have significant tread.
- Look for standing or running water and avoid it (if you can).
- Go easy around turns.
- Keep your speed down — speed should match conditions.
- If a thunderstorm starts while you're driving and visibility is poor, pull off the roadway into a parking lot and wait.
- If you have no alternative but to drive through floods, drive slowly, use a low gear, and try to keep the engine revving at a high rate.
2. Snow driving risks
Snow-related issues deal with decreased traction, poor visibility, limited control, and many other risks.
- Heavy snowfall reduces drastically the visibility on the roads. Poor visibility on the road makes it difficult for drivers to see other vehicles, road signs, and other potential hazards on their way.
After the snow has fallen, the white landscape covers the lane markings and road signs and hides potential hazards, which can leave drivers disoriented or unable to distinguish between the road and the surrounding areas.
- Icy and slippery roads may lead to decreased traction and reduced control over the vehicle. Due to that, braking distances increase making it difficult to stop quickly in emergencies. Also, turning and cornering becomes more hazardous, increasing the risk of skidding, losing control, and collisions.
- Stranded or stuck in snow vehicles may become a risk to both the occupants of the vehicle and other passing drivers.
In extreme cold weather, being stranded without proper provisions can be life-threatening.
- Road closures and traffic jams happen most often during heavy snowfall.
Due to moving slowly, vehicle drivers are frustrated and sometimes have reckless driving behaviors.
- Clear the snow completely off the entire car or truck (including the roof), otherwise, you may cause snow to fall on your or others' windscreen hampering your vision.
- Sweep the taillights, headlights, all windows, and number plates.
- Make sure that you see everybody on the road and others also see you.
- Watch out for slow-moving vehicles such as snowplows and trucks spreading salt or sand trucks. Try not to get too close to these types of vehicles because you might get your full windshield covered with sand. Also, avoid passing these vehicles unless it is safe to do so. There may be uncleared snow on the road ahead.
- Accelerate and brake gently, using low revs to avoid skidding.
- Leave extra space between your car and the car in front.
3. Fog driving risks
Driving during foggy weather conditions can be hazardous and it requires extra caution from drivers.
Fog reduces visibility on the road, creating a dense and opaque atmosphere that obscures the driver's view of the surroundings.
Risks during foggy weather:
- Reduces visibility
Dense fog creates an opaque and dangerous atmosphere on the road increasing the likelihood of accidents.
Fog reduces the driver's visibility over the road. It makes it challenging for the driver to spot other vehicles and obstacles on the road.
Also, dense fog can trick drivers that they are going slower than they are.
- Increases the rear-end collisions
Due to limited visibility, drivers may not see slowing or stopped traffic ahead increasing the risk of rear-end collisions, especially when following too closely.
- Disorient and confuse drivers
Driving in dense fog can disorient and confuse drivers by making them lose track of their location, direction, or proximity to other landmarks. This can result in wrong turns, illegal maneuvers, and an increased risk of getting lost.
- Slippery roads
Fog is often associated with wet roads. The combination of reduced visibility and slippery surfaces can increase the risk of skidding and losing control of the vehicle.
- Delayed reaction
The reduced visibility in case of dense fog can impair a driver's ability to detect sudden changes in other drivers' behavior leading to collisions.
Driving tips during fog:
- Some drivers think that beam lights can help improve visibility during dense fog. But, in fog, the beam lights are counterproductive.
The beam lights reflect off the water droplets in the air creating a glare and making the visibility even worse for the driver and the oncoming traffic.
So, don't count on illumination during fog. Drive slowly and safely.
- Keep the speed down.
- If your car has fog lights, use them. They help by seeing the edges of the road close to the car.
- Leave sufficient space between you and the car in front.
- If visibility is very limited, wind down your windows at junctions and crossroads to allow you to listen out for approaching traffic. If you really cannot see, you should consider stopping until it is safe to continue.
- If your car is fitted with air conditioning, use it, as it will stop the windows from misting up. Ensure the heater is set to windscreen de-misting and open all the vents.
4. Ice driving risks
Driving when the roads are covered with ice is extremely dangerous and it requires extra precautions from drivers.
Ice on the roads creates treacherous surfaces with reduced traction, making it challenging to maintain control of the vehicle.
The risks associated with driving on ice include:
- Limited traction:
Icy roads significantly reduce tire grip, making it difficult to accelerate, brake, and steer. Vehicles may slide or skid, leading to loss of control and accidents.
- Increased braking distance:
It takes much longer to stop a vehicle on icy roads compared to dry surfaces. Drivers may underestimate the increased braking distance needed, leading to rear-end collisions or collisions with obstacles.
- Black ice:
One of the most dangerous aspects of driving on ice is black ice. Black ice is a thin, transparent layer of ice that forms on roads and is nearly invisible to drivers. It can cause sudden loss of traction and control without warning.
- Spinning and skidding:
Drivers may experience spinning or skidding of the vehicle due to a lack of traction on icy surfaces, leading to accidents and collisions.
- Difficulty on inclines:
Uphill or downhill driving on icy roads is particularly challenging, as it requires more traction and careful use of brakes to avoid sliding.
5. Hot temperatures driving risks
Here are the risks associated with driving during extreme temperatures:
- Heat-related vehicle issues:
High temperatures can strain a vehicle's engine, transmission, and cooling system, leading to an increased risk of breakdowns and engine overheating.
- Tire blowouts:
Prolonged exposure to hot pavement and high temperatures can cause tire blowouts, especially if the tires are underinflated or worn out.
- Sun glare:
Intense sunlight during hot weather can create glare on windshields, impairing visibility and increasing the risk of accidents.
- Dehydration and heatstroke:
Drivers and passengers are susceptible to dehydration and heatstroke, especially during long journeys without proper hydration and ventilation in the vehicle.
6. Cold temperatures driving risks
- Reduced battery performance:
Cold weather can drain a car's battery power, potentially leading to a stalled vehicle.
- Tire pressure loss:
Cold temperatures cause tire pressure to drop, which can affect vehicle handling and fuel efficiency.
- Frost and ice on windows:
Frost and ice buildup on windows and mirrors can reduce visibility, leading to hazardous driving conditions.
- Black ice:
Black ice is a thin, transparent layer of ice that forms on roads and is extremely difficult to detect, increasing the risk of unexpected skidding and loss of control.
- Freezing of essential vehicle fluids:
Cold temperatures can cause essential vehicle fluids, such as antifreeze and washer fluid, to freeze, affecting vehicle performance.
Driving in bad weather tips
1. Plan ahead
The most important thing to remember before setting off on any journey is to check the weather forecast and plan ahead.
Check the weather before you leave.
If you can, take an alternate route to avoid the brunt of a weather system.
2. Put together a car emergency kit that contains:
- An ice scraper and a snow brush.
- Protective clothing and blanket, including a high visibility jacket and a torch/flashlight with batteries.
- Warm clothes and blankets – for you and all passengers.
- A bag of sand, salt, or cat litter (for traction if you get stuck in snow).
- Emergency warning flares or triangles.
- Gloves or mittens.
- A flashlight and batteries.
- A first-aid kit.
- Booster cables.
- Water and nonperishable snack foods like high-calorie fruit bars, granola bars, nuts.
- A candle and matches.
- A GPS navigation device or map for any unplanned diversions
- A towing rope
3. Drive slowly
You should drive more slower than usual in bad weather.
Drive at a speed that is appropriate for the current visibility conditions. Slow down to a speed that allows you to maintain control of your vehicle and react to unexpected situations.
Also, braking takes longer on slippery roads. The slower you go, the easier it will be for you to maintain control and stop your vehicle.
4. Use headlights
According to the Highway Code, you must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced - generally when you cannot see for more than 100 meters.
All states have laws requiring the use of headlights in low visibility, and many states require headlights when wipers are in use.
Leave your lights turned on and consider turning on your hazard lights to help enhance your vehicle's visibility.
This might help other drivers see your car and avoid colliding with it.
Use dipped headlights if visibility is seriously reduced.
5. Pull the vehicle off the road
If the weather suddenly gets bad, find a safe place at a truck stop or to pull off the road completely. Try to wait out the bad spell.
6. Keep windows clear
Turn on the wipers and crank up the defroster.
Before you leave, scrape the ice off the vehicle's windows.
The defroster or air conditioner may help keep windows and mirrors clear.
Keeping windows clear is especially important backing up. It can help truck drivers to avoid any property damage. See these trailer backing tips.
7. Brake cautiously
Abrupt braking can cause wheel lock-up and loss of steering control.
Apply constant, firm pressure to the pedal.
8. How to get out if the vehicle stuck in snow
If the vehicle got stuck in snow, straighten the wheels and accelerate slowly. Avoid spinning the tires.
If that doesn't help, use sand, salt, or blocks under the drive wheels to give them the chance of a firm grip to pull the vehicle.
9. Avoid crossing flooded roadways
During heavy rains, sometimes, it's tough to tell how deep water may be. And if you are not sure, you better find an alternate route.
Although the water may seem shallow, just 12 inches (30cm) of moving water can float your car, potentially taking it to deeper water from which you may need rescuing.
Flood water also contains hidden hazards which can damage your car, and just an egg-cupful of water sucked into your car's engine will lead to severe damage.
10. Turn off cruise control
When roads are wet, snowy, or icy, don't rely on cruise control. Turn it off and be the who controls the speed of the vehicle and who reacts to any other conditions on the road.
11. Do a pre-trip inspection of the vehicle
To avoid stopping in the middle of nowhere due to a breakdown, the driver should be confident that his vehicle is well-maintained and best-equipped.
To make sure about that, the driver has to focus on the following before he start rolling.
- Do a visual, hands-on inspection and check all important items, including tires, wiper blades, fluid and lights.
- Check that wiper blades are not worn and are capable of clearing the windscreen correctly.
- Don’t forget to check the spare tire.
- Tire tread is very important especially on slippery roads allowing you to slow down and stop suddenly.
- Guard against “over” and “under” inflated tires. This may lead to potential loss in traction.
- Check the battery, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid and headlights.
- Ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible.
- Headlamps, turn signals, and hazard signals are imperative in bad weather driving conditions.
- Check that mirrors are clear and the windows are demisted thoroughly.
- Be sure to have enough fuel if you plan for a long journey.
12. Keep an eye out for cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians
Remember to give vulnerable road users including cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians more room than usual. They are more likely to be blown around by side winds – always keep a safe distance.