Hazardous Driving Tips

Winter can bring lots of snow and ice in colder climates. Icy weather can usually results in dangerous road conditions. Adverse weather, such as heavy rain, rain turning to ice, and snow can really mess with traffic and cause serious accidents – regardless of where in the world you call home. In this article, you can learn how to protect yourself while driving at night, in the rain, or on ice.

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One in five vehicle crashes occur in adverse weather conditions, as per the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). In fact, there are about 1.2 million auto accidents a year, primarily due to snow and icy conditions during the winter months. However, other adverse weather conditions can negatively affect road safety, such as fog, rain, or even wind. Here are a few road conditions to watch for during the winter months that don’t include snow:

Night DrivingRainfall:

A recent North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies report shows that fatal traffic accidents are 34% more likely during “precipitation events” and 27% more likely even in light rain. Furthermore, USDOT says that 46% of crashes during adverse weather conditions happen during rainfall, compared with 18% during snowfall. Even a drizzle can increase the likelihood of a collision. Follow these tips for safer driving in the rain:

  • Keep car maintenance up to date, to whit: Windshield wipers are working correctly, all lights and turn signals are functioning, tire pressure is at recommended levels, and tires are replaced when necessary.
  • Don’t use cruise control in wet conditions.
  • Slow down to reduce the risk of hydroplaning.
  • Avoid turning sharply and braking hard.
  • Increase the distance between you and the car in front of you.
  • Turn headlights on whenever you drive in the rain.

Black Ice:

Black ice isn’t black at all. It’s clear — and that’s what makes it so dangerous. Black ice forms when water or moisture freezes into a thin, transparent ice sheet on roads or sidewalks. Thus, this ice is often indistinguishable from the dark asphalt beneath. Here’s how to respond if you do encounter this wintery hazard:

  • Prepare your vehicle. Check your tire treads and replace your tires if necessary. Keep your windshield clear of snow, ice, or dirt so you can more easily spot black ice.
  • Because black ice is most common when the snow melts and then refreezes, be especially careful when the temperature is dancing around 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Keep your headlights on even during the day to better spot the shine of black ice.
  • Drive slowly.
  • Beware of areas that are more susceptible to black ice, such as bridges and overpasses, inside tunnels, lightly traveled or untreated roads, or shaded areas.
  • Do not use cruise control.
  • Increase the distance between you and the car in front of you.
  • If you do hit a patch of black ice, leave the brakes alone, let up on the accelerator completely, and keep your steering wheel straight. Most patches are less than 20 feet in length.
  • If your tires start to skid, gently turn your wheel in the same direction that you are skidding.

Night Driving:

Compared to daytime driving, night driving poses added risks. Darkness reduces visibility, headlights can be blinding, and impaired drivers are more prevalent after the sun goes down. While most people only do an average of 25% of their driving at night, around 50% of traffic deaths happen after dark. Studies have shown that auto accidents spike in the week following daylight savings time, partially because more commuters drive during the dark. Combine shorter days with colder temps, and there are many more road accidents. Here are tips for night driving:

  • Clean your windshield for better visibility.
  • Regularly test all lights and turn signals, and make sure they are clean as well.
  • Avoid drowsy driving. Stay awake and alert behind the wheel.
  • Drive defensively. You’re more likely to come across intoxicated or drowsy drivers at night.
  • Watch for pedestrians, cyclists, and wildlife.

What If You Are Stranded in Your Car for Hours?

Recently, hundreds of drivers in Virginia were stranded on the highway overnight when a snowstorm caused multiple accidents. Some people were stuck for over 24 hours with little food, gas, or heat. If you’re concerned about suffering the same fate, here are tips from safety experts:

• Be prepared! No matter the weather, keep a go-bag in your car year-round with food, water, blankets, medication, etc.
• Don’t leave your car if stranded in the snow! It’s colder outside than inside, and you could get lost or suffer hypothermia.
• Be visible to rescuers.

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