High Winds and Water – The Unseen Driving Hazards
When you think of difficult driving conditions, most people envision ice and snow. But summer driving has its own set of hazards that can be just as dangerous. Regardless of whether you’re driving to the office, making local deliveries, or long highway trips, everyone needs to be prepared for summer storms.
Weather conditions can change rapidly. The conditions you can encounter while on the road include high winds, dust storms, and thunderstorms.
Strong winds will affect your vehicle. The dangers increase if you’re towing a trailer or a boat. High winds push on vehicles making it harder for a driver to stay on track. In addition, winds coming head-on can have a lifting effect on vehicles reducing traction and the ability to maneuver safely.
Strong winds can knock large branches or entire trees onto the road. If you find yourself in a high wind situation, you should look ahead on the road for windblown debris. Because of their size larger vehicles such as trailers, semi-trucks, and buses are more susceptible to rollovers when driving in high winds. Be aware of big vehicles near you and maintain more of a distance than you normally would.
If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park your vehicle as quickly and safely as possible, and stay in the vehicle with the seatbelt on. Put your head down below the windows and cover your head with your hands, a blanket, coat, or other padding if possible.
Dust storms, or sand storms, are strong winds filled with dense sand or dust. A dust storm crossing a highway covers the highway with blowing dust, and can put you into near darkness in an instant.
If you encounter a dust storm, don’t stop on the road. Cars coming from behind you will not see you in time to stop. Instead, slow down and pull off to the side of the road. After you’re off of the roadway, turn off the vehicle lights and keep your foot off the brake; otherwise, a driver behind will follow your tail or brake lights and think you’re still on the road.
Keep your car radio on and listen for weather updates. Wait for the dust storm to pass. You should be able to see at least 300 feet before re-entering the roadway. Be aware that heavy rain often follows a dust storm.
Thunderstorms can include heavy rain, lightning, or hail and driving in these conditions on wet or flooded roads can be tricky, even for the experienced motorist.
Thunderstorms usually include heavy, torrential rains that can reduce visibility to zero. If it’s raining so hard that you can’t see the road in front of you, pull over and wait for it to pass.
Hail, a frequent by-product of thunderstorms, can be very dangerous and destructive. If you find yourself driving into a hailstorm, stay inside your vehicle. Hail falls at high speeds and can be accelerated by high winds. Hail can reach speeds of up to 90 miles per hour and can hurt you if you’re out in it.
DRIVING DURING A SUMMER STORM
If you encounter a summer storm, follow these basic driving tips:
• Don’t use cruise control. Cruise control can cause your vehicle to hydroplane on a wet road
• Try not to do anything forcefully or quickly when driving in bad weather
• Turn your headlights on low, so you can be seen and slow down your car
• Keep extra distance between you and the car in front of you
• When you can, pull safely onto the shoulder of the road and stop, making sure you are away from any trees or other objects that could fall on the vehicle
You need to be ready for whatever you may encounter. Many of us start out the day in our vehicles when the weather looks nice and somehow, we end up in a storm. It’s a good idea to carry an emergency kit in your vehicle with extra clothing and/or rain gear, a flashlight, a blanket, food and water. In addition, it’s a good idea to keep at least a half tank of gas at all times, plan long trips carefully, and anticipate weather conditions.
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