Getting caught off guard by the elements is never ideal, especially when you’re on the road. At best a challenge and at worst an accident waiting to happen, driving in poor weather conditions is a roll of the dice.
But if you have to brave the great outdoors when conditions are poor, it’s essential that you’re prepared. Knowing how to deal with unpredictable and hazardous conditions can help avoid doing damage to both you and your car.
Here, we’ll present some tips and techniques to help you stay safe when driving in poor weather conditions.
When it’s lashing down, take note of your speed, disengage cruise control, and increase your following speed to match the conditions of the road. Turn on your headlights too.
As rain mixes with oil and dirt on the road, things become very slippery. The wet conditions will decrease your braking ability, so it’ll take you longer to stop in emergencies.
Likewise, rain increases the chance of hydroplaning. This happens during heavy rainfall, when the tread of your tyres will struggle to handle the water between them and the road. In effect, the tyres then ride on top of the water, reducing contact with the road and causing you to lose traction. When a vehicle is hydroplaning, steering is difficult. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t slam your foot on the brake.
Instead, take your foot off the accelerator pedal and gradually slow down so that your tyres can again make contact with the road.
Snow can cause all sorts of problems on the road, from blocking roadways to creating dangerous drifting. When you’re driving on snow, keep plenty of distance between you and the car in front, and remember to accelerate slowly: this improves your traction when snow is under the tyres.
Likewise, avoid slamming on the brakes, as this increases the likelihood of a skid. If possible, try not to stop unless you have to; instead, try slowing down enough to keep your car rolling until the light changes or the car in front moves.
Be mindful of driving in hailstorms as they can be especially dangerous, causing slippery driving conditions as well as visibility problems. If you get caught in a bad hailstorm, it can impair visibility to the point where it’s impossible to drive any further. If this happens, pull over and wait for the weather front to pass.
If you do have to travel, leave three car lengths between you and the vehicle in front. When you feel yourself starting to slide on a hail-covered road, slowly take your foot off the accelerator pedal – do not hit the brakes or make any sudden steering adjustments, as this could cause a skid.
Driving on ice is rarely a good idea, but if you have to do it then be sure to drive slowly, especially when accelerating or decelerating. If you hit the accelerator or brake pedal hard, it will likely cause a skid, so avoid heavy contact and try to keep your car rolling to reduce the risk of slipping out of control.
Another useful way to avoid skidding is to set off in a higher gear, like 2nd or 3rd as opposed to 1st. Although you’ll have to increase the revs, the wheels won’t spin too quickly, so it will be easier to retain traction on icy surfaces.
In the event of up or downhill driving, try to find an alternative route, and be sure to give yourself extra time and distance to stop or slow down as you approach junctions, traffic or give way lines.
Black ice is treacherous because it’s very difficult to see. This thin coating of transparent ice is one of the most dangerous winter road hazards, so take extra care when driving on it; it may appear as a dark patch on the road or you might notice glare from street or car lights shining on it.
Either way, there are a few things you can do to safely navigate black ice. If you suspect it’s on the road, exercise caution and drive slowly and methodically. When driving on bridges and through overpasses, be particularly careful as they typically freeze and melt last. In the event you do hit a patch, don’t slam on the brakes or change lanes until you’re confident you’ve passed it.
Braking distances, meanwhile, can increase tenfold when driving on ice – you should leave up to 10 times the normal recommended gap between you and the car in front.
For more tips on how to take on wintery driving conditions, check out this essential advice here.
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