On National Traffic Safety Month, All Star would like to focus on different types of weather and the risks they pose. Here’s how you can drive safely in every driving situation.
Did you know that driving when the weather is warm and sunny is the most dangerous time to drive? About 80% of young driver fatal crashes happen during fair weather conditions. Drivers are more likely to speed on nice sunny days, and it is for this reason that more crashes and collisions happen in fair weather. On bright sunny days, account for sun glare as it can cause you to become blinded while driving.
Low Light and Nighttime
Driving during dusk can make it difficult for you to see clearly as your eyes adjust to the low contrast. Shadows can veil other road users or objects in your environment. At night, visibility is greatly reduced and the distance you can see ahead of you is restricted to the area illuminated by your vehicle’s headlights.
To drive safely at night, ensure that you do not overdrive your headlights (driving faster than your sight distance). When in doubt, reduce your speed and remain alert for animals and other road users that may enter your path of travel.
A strong wind can push your vehicle off the road or push another vehicle into your lane. Vehicles with a higher center or gravity tend to be more affected by strong wind gusts.
The best thing to do when wind gusts push or sway your vehicle is to grip the steering wheel firmly and reduce your speed. Coast through the strong gust, do not oversteer, and keep an area of open space to all sides of your vehicle in case you must leave the roadway.
Fog and Smog
As soon as you encounter fog, reduce your speed and turn your low beam headlights on (fog lights can be used in unison with low beam headlights to increase visibility).
Do not use high beam headlights as the moisture in the air is so dense that rays from high beam headlights will reflect back at you. If fog is so heavy that you cannot see sufficiently, pull over to a safe location off the roadway. Smog, which is a mixture of smoke and fog created by air pollution, should be handled the same way as fog.
Rain and High Water
During the first 10-15 minutes of rain, roads may be slicker than usual as rainfall loosens oil and dirt that has collected on the roadway. Use the appropriate speed on your windshield wipers and turn on your low beam headlights. Increase following and stopping distances to avoid sliding into other vehicles. Use caution and reduce your speed to deal with the changing conditions on the road. If rain is pouring down hard enough that you cannot see, pull off the road in a safe location and wait until conditions clear.
If you encounter high water, do not drive through it. Even shallow high water can damage your vehicle. Turn your vehicle around when possible and seek an alternate path to get to your destination.
Hydroplaning, when your vehicle rides atop a layer of water and loses contact with the road, is possible anytime there is an accumulation of water on the road. A good indication that hydroplaning is possible is when you see other vehicles create water splashes. If the vehicle ahead of you leaves tire tracks in the water, travel in them when possible. The best way to avoid hydroplaning is to reduce your speed. If you hydroplane, keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and do not slam on the brakes. You should coast and cover until you regain traction. When appropriate, steer gently in the direction you want to go and avoid oversteering.
When driving in snow, it is important to plan your trip and provide yourself with plenty of time to reach your destination. Travel slowly, brake early (and smoothly), and keep areas of open space on all sides of your vehicle.
Clean your snow-covered vehicle thoroughly before driving it. Driving a snow-covered vehicle can obstruct your view of the road and snow can fly off your vehicle and pose a hazard to other road users. It is illegal to drive a vehicle that has not been sufficiently cleaned of snow.
If driving in a blizzard, find a safe location completely off the road to wait until conditions clear. If traveling on the freeway, try to make it to the next exit. Be mindful of slow-moving vehicles and/or vehicles that have pulled off the roadway.
There is a potential for roads to become slick with ice as soon as the weather drops to freezing temperatures. If the roads become icy while driving, reduce your speed, increase your following distance, and leave a cushion of space around your vehicle. Drive in a smooth, controlled manner and do not steer aggressively. Even if you think the road is clear of ice, there may still be patches of black ice, which is ice that blends in and is camouflaged by the roadway.
Any time visibility is reduced, you should turn on your low beam headlights, reduce your speed, and increase your following distance. Select a path of travel that offers the most visibility of the road ahead.
In Michigan, you are required to have your headlights on from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise and at any other time when there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead.
In Ohio, you are required to have your headlights on from sunset to sunrise, anytime there is insufficient natural light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, persons, vehicles, and substantial objects on the highway are not discernible at a distance of one thousand feet ahead, and anytime windshield wipers are in use (due to weather conditions).
Almost all driving situations are manageable when you use the appropriate speed for the road, traffic, and weather conditions.