When it rains, it pours. Sometimes it also hails, freezes, or turns into snow, especially in New England.
These are conditions that lead to accidents, especially in the winter. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, bad weather and poor road conditions account for nearly half a million accidents each year.
Here are some tips to help you stay safe and avoid common accidents in hazardous weather.
Black ice is among the scariest winter road conditions. What makes black ice so deadly it’s the way it blends in with the rest of the road, making it hard to see. If you do find yourself on black ice, the first thing to do is to not panic, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Don’t hit the brakes and don’t jerk the steering wheel around. “The best thing to do is to slowly take your foot off the accelerator,” the Forest Service says. “Slow down as much as you can without putting yourself in danger of being rear-ended.”
Snow squalls can be another unpredictable winter weather hazard. If you get caught in one, the best thing to do is to pull over and wait it out, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. If that’s not possible, reduce your speed by easing your foot off the brake pedal—don’t hit the brakes. Also, don’t forget to turn on your headlights and flashers to help other drivers see you.
When It’s Snowing
The first rule of driving in the snow is don’t do it, according to AAA. But if you must, follow these guidelines:
- Go slow. This accounts for lower traction if there’s snow or ice on the roads.
- Change speed slowly. It will take more time to stop for a light.
- Increase the space between you and other drivers by five to six seconds.
- Brake carefully. When necessary, apply steady pressure to the brakes. Keep your foot close to the brake pedal, with your heel on the floor and the ball of your foot on the pedal.
- Roll instead of stop. It takes less inertia to speed up then to get going again after a full stop. Try to slow down to a roll while you wait for the traffic light to change instead of abruptly stopping.
- Don’t force your car up hills. Hitting the gas on a snowy road up a hill will cause your wheels to spin. Build speed before you get to the hill.
- Slow down before you go down hills. At the top of the hill, ease off the gas so you go down slowly.
In Heavy Rain
Driving in heavy rain is not unlike being in a snowstorm. Again, drive slowly and increase the distance between your car and the other vehicles on the road. Ease off the accelerator, instead of slamming the brakes. In addition:
- Stay in the middle lanes to avoid water that has pooled on the sides.
- Don’t drive through moving water—your car could end up being carried off the road.
- Go slower when you are driving through deep puddles. If the water rises to the bottom of your doors, turn around. It could damage the electrical systems of your car.
There are two other hazards that occur when driving in the rain. One is foggy windows. Condensation forms because of the difference in humidity and temperature between the outside and the inside of your car. To defog the windows quickly turn on the defroster without heat or just roll down the window, according to lifehacker.com. In intense humid conditions during the summer, the opposite is necessary: turn off the AC and keep the heat on low.
Hitting a large pool of water and hydroplaning is one of drivers’ worst fears. The first thing to do is to stay calm and avoid sudden action with the brakes or accelerators. What you do next depends on what kind of steering and brakes you have, but the general idea to gently steer towards an open space, according to DefensiveDriver.com. Specifically: “If you are in a front wheel drive with or without ABS and traction control or a rear wheel drive with ABS and traction control and you begin to hydroplane, you should look for open space and plan to travel in that direction. Stay lightly on the accelerator and steer gently toward the open space you have identified. If you are in a rear wheel drive without ABS and traction control then look for open space and plan to travel in that direction. Ease off the accelerator and steer toward the open space you have identified.”