Tips for Bad Weather Driving
Driving can be challenging enough on sunny days when the pavement is perfectly dry. Less than ideal weather, such as rain, snow, or fog, requires extra skill to navigate safely. In West Virginia, it’s important to adjust driving habits to the weather and the season.
Dealing with Cold Temperatures as a Driver
Your driver’s education teacher probably told you not to let your fuel tank run low in winter. This is sound advice. Keeping your gas tank at least half full during cold weather helps to keep you warm if you get stranded. When your fuel tank is positioned over your vehicle’s drive wheels, the weight of the fuel gives your vehicle better traction. Not letting the tank get too low also prevents you from running out of gas and having to wait in cold weather until someone can reach you.
Some other things you can do to prepare for driving in cold weather include:
- Check to see that your wiper fluid reservoir is full and that it contains fluid made for cold weather.
- Sometime in the late fall, check your battery to ensure it has enough power to withstand the coldest of temperatures.
- Check the air pressure in your tires since cold air causes them to lose pressure.
- Dress appropriately and place a cold weather survival kit including an ice scraper, blanket, phone charger, flashlight, tow rope, and cat litter for extra traction in your car.
- Tell someone your travel plans, including when you expect to return home.
- Don’t rev your engine or let your car warm up for more than a few minutes in cold weather. Both of these are hard on the engine.
Driving When It’s Snowing
When driving in snow, a good rule of thumb is to reduce your speed by half. Driving too fast can lead to spin-outs and other dangerous situations. On the other hand, driving too slow can cause you to get stuck in the snow. The key is to find a good balance so you have more time to stop suddenly if necessary and to react if your vehicle starts sliding. Try to avoid quick turns and stops and shift into low gear when going down a hill if you don’t have automatic transmission.
You can do everything right and still start skidding. Avoid slamming on the brakes if that happens. Instead, take your foot off the gas pedal to slow your car down and make it easier for you to control. Turn the steering wheel gently in the direction of the skid to help prevent an uncontrolled spin-out. Be sure to keep your eyes in the direction you want the car to go.
In heavy snow, check the tailpipe of your car before getting into it. The snow can clog the tailpipe and force carbon monoxide into your vehicle. It’s also important to carry a snowbrush and to clear snow from the windshield, all windows, and the top of the car before starting out.
Driving in Heavy Rain or Fog
Heavy downpours can cause a condition called hydroplaning. This describes a car’s tires losing traction with the road surface and it can happen with only a thin sheet of water on the road. If you start hydroplaning, remove your foot from the accelerator to allow the car to slow down. You should avoid using the brakes or turning the wheel so your car doesn’t start to skid. You can potentially prevent hydroplaning by checking the tread on your tires frequently to ensure they will maintain traction and channel water.
To prepare for foggy conditions, make sure that your defroster and windshield wipers work correctly and use them when the need arises. Contrary to popular belief, turning on your car’s high beams doesn’t necessarily help you see farther since low beam headlights reflect less off the fog. Be certain to keep extra following space between you and the car in front of you and check your rearview mirror often to prepare for vehicles approaching too quickly. Most importantly, reduce your speed to stay safe.
Stay Home if You Can
If local weather officials issue a travel advisory, please take it seriously and postpone any unnecessary trips. More cars on the road mean a greater likelihood of someone experiencing an emergency. At the same time, police cars and ambulance drivers will have a harder time reaching people who need help.
Sometimes accidents happen despite taking several precautions. If you got into an accident and liability rests with the other driver, please contact Angotti & Straface for a free legal consultation.