The term "joy ride" does not apply when it's pouring and the wind is gusting. The
best strategy for driving in bad weather is to avoid it. But if going out is necessary
or you get caught in bad conditions once you're already on the road, follow these
safe driving tips:
Make sure your headlights are on. Many states require drivers to keep their headlights
on if windshield wipers are on.
Increase your following distance — if you're going slowly because of bad
weather, is there really any point to being only 2 feet behind the car in front of
Slow down. Braking takes longer on slippery roads — the slower you go, the
easier it will be for you to recognize potential hazards and control, slow, and stop
Make sure your car is prepared for the conditions (check your battery, windshield
wipers and washer fluid, tires, antifreeze, and headlights).
Use caution near intersections. Never assume that because you have the green light
or the right of way that the intersection will be clear — keep your head and
eyes moving in search of potential hazards.
Stay in one lane as much as possible — avoid unnecessary lane changes (don't
go zipping in and out of traffic, passing people, etc.).
Keep two hands on the wheel, two eyes on the road, and your mind focused on driving
at all times.
BRRRRRRRaving the Snow and Ice
Driving a car is never "easy," but this is especially true in wintry
weather. To hone your skills, ask someone with winter driving experience to take
you to a vacant parking lot where you can practice driving, turning, and stopping
in the snow.
If you must travel, keep your car gassed up so that the fuel lines don't freeze.
Clear snow completely off the entire car (including the roof), remembering to sweep
the taillights and headlights. Watch out for slow-moving vehicles like snowplows and
sand trucks, and try not to get too close — the last thing you need in a snowstorm
is a windshield full of sand. Also try to avoid passing these vehicles.
Put together a car emergency kit that contains:
an ice scraper and a snow brush
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
nonperishable snack foods
a candle and matches
a cup in case you need to melt snow for water
If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle and call for assistance. Run the heater
occasionally to keep warm, but avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by making sure your
tailpipe isn't stuffed or blocked with snow or other debris.
Roads are dirty places. Between tires stirring up gravel and engines dripping oil
and other fluids, a lot of oily and slick substances build up on roads. That's why
roads are at their slickest almost immediately after it starts raining. The water
brings those oils to the surface, making it sneaky-slick.
If you get caught in a slick situation and your car starts gliding or hydroplaning,
don't panic or slam on the brakes. Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel, lift your
foot off the accelerator, and let the vehicle coast (making sure not to turn the steering
wheel) until you feel your vehicle get traction again.
To prevent hydroplaning:
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
Be aware of thunderstorm warnings. If a thunderstorm starts while you're
driving and visibility is poor, pull over and wait it out. Don't run the
risk of being struck by lightning — stay in your car and pull off the roadway
into a parking lot if possible.
Scorching Sun and Fuzzy Fog
One of the most vital parts of driving is visibility. Both bright sun and soupy
fog can cause limited visibility. To combat that pesky fireball in the sky, always
have UV sunglasses somewhere in the car. Consider getting polarized sunglasses as
they help reduce glare and improve visibility. Your car's pop-down visor can
help reduce glare as well.
Fog can be a little trickier to handle than bright sunlight. Fog can reduce visibility
to less than ¼ mile. Fog can also trick you into thinking you're going slower
than you really are, so keep the speed down. When you can't see far ahead, it's hard
to see brake lights or traffic signs until you're almost upon them. And just because
you can't see doesn't mean that your high beams will improve visibility. In fact,
high beams reduce visibility in fog. If your car has fog lights, use them. They'll
help you see the edges of the road close to the car.
No matter what's causing the bad driving conditions, just remember: Don't venture
out if you don't have to.