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Bad Weather Driving

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All Weather Driving Tips

Hurricanes, hail, tornadoes, flooding — these and other extreme weather conditions can threaten your safety and damage your car. Learn how to prepare for hazardous weather and help minimize the damage to your vehicle.

Earthquake Safety

Earthquakes can hit your area without warning, even if you are not on a recognized fault line. Here’s what to do if an earthquake hits while you’re driving your car.

  • Move to a clear area away from buildings, trees, overpasses, underpasses or utility wires.
  • Slow down and quickly find a place to stop, preferably away from traffic.
  • Stay in your car.
  • Check for injuries.
  • Turn on your radio and listen for instructions from the authorities.
  • Stay off the telephone unless you must report severe injuries.
  • Once the shaking has stopped, proceed with caution. Avoid bridges or ramps that might have been damaged by the quake.
  • Look for cracks, breaks or obstructions in the road as you drive.
  • Do not, under any circumstance, drive over a downed electrical line.

Tornado / High Wind Safety

If you’re in a tornado’s path, you won’t have much time to find shelter from it. When you prepare for tornado season ahead of time, you can increase your chances of protecting yourself and your property in the face of a tornado or heavy windstorm.

Prepare a disaster kit

Pack a first aid kit, a battery-powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries, canned and other non-perishable food, a hand-operated can opener, bottled water, sturdy shoes and work gloves, extra car keys and written instructions on how to turn off your home’s utilities.

Get out of a car or mobile home immediately

Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car — leave it immediately. Hurry to the basement of a nearby sturdy building, or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area.

Watch out for fallen power lines after the storm

Do not, under any circumstance, drive over a downed electrical line.

Leave your car behind, if necessary

Heavy rains often accompany tornadoes. Do not travel down a road submerged in water — underlying currents could carry your car away. If your vehicle stalls in water, immediately abandon it — floodwaters can rise several feet in a matter of minutes. Another likely threat: collapsed or collapsing roadway.

Hailstorm Safety

What to do if you drive into a hailstorm:

  • Stay inside the vehicle. Hail falls at fast speeds, and it can cause injury to those in its path.
  • Stop driving and pull to a safe place so hail doesn’t break the windshield or any windows — driving compounds hail’s impact with your car. Stop under an overpass, and don’t forget to pull out of traffic lanes and onto a shoulder. Avoid ditches due to possible high-rising water.
  • Keep your car angled so the hail is hitting the front of your car. Windshields are reinforced to withstand forward driving and pelting objects. Side windows and backglass are not, so they’re much more susceptible to breakage.
  • Lie down, if possible, and keep your back to the windows. If you have a blanket, cover yourself with it to prevent possible debris from hitting you.

Thunderstorm and Flood Safety

Floods can occur anywhere, with floodwaters rising gradually or flash floods striking suddenly. Flash floods are the number one weather-related killer in the United States — most flood fatalities happen because people try to drive through deadly waters rather than avoid them. (Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2005)

Don’t drive through standing water on roads or in parking lots

The average automobile can be swept off the road in 12 inches of moving water, and roads covered by water are prone to collapse. Attempting to drive through water also may stall your engine, with the potential to cause irreparable damage if you try to restart the engine. If you come upon a flooded street, take an alternate route.

What to do if you are caught in Floodwaters:

Do your best to estimate the depth of the water (if other cars are driving through, take note of how deep the water is).

  • Drive slowly and steadily through the water.
  • Avoid driving in water that downed electrical or power lines have fallen in — electric current passes through water easily.
  • Watch for items traveling downstream — they can trap or crush you if you’re in their path.
  • If you have driven through water up to the wheel rims or higher, test your brakes on a clear patch of road at low speed. If they are wet and not stopping the vehicle as they should, dry them by pressing gently on the brake pedal with your left foot while maintaining speed with your right foot.
  • Stay off the telephone unless you must report severe injuries.
  • If your vehicle stalls in the deep water, you may need to restart the engine to make it to safety. Keep in mind that restarting may cause irreparable damage to the engine.
  • If you can’t restart your vehicle and you become trapped in rising water, immediately abandon it for higher ground. Try to open the door or roll down the window to get out of the vehicle. If you are unable to get out safely, call 911 or get the attention of a passerby or someone standing on higher ground so that they may call for help.

Driving in Snow & Ice

Winter brings treacherous driving conditions, and ice storms can present more severe driving conditions than even major snowstorms. Snow actually can enhance traction on icy roads, while ice storms deposit layers of treacherous, often-invisible, ice on virtually every surface.

If you don’t have to drive, don’t

Let the road crews — and Mother Nature — improve bad conditions before you leave. Just a few hours can make a huge difference in driving safety.

Check your tires

Make sure you always have enough traction — don’t try to make those tires last just one more winter if the treads are worn.

Make sure the defroster is working

If your car’s heating system isn’t operating properly, fix it now.

Keep the gas tank full

This will keep the fuel line from freezing and ensure you have enough gas in case you are stranded in traffic.

Stock up on supplies

Always carry a functional scraper and a small shovel in your car during winter. Year-round safety items should include a cell phone, flashlight and extra batteries, blanket, emergency sign and a high-protein snack bar.

Tell someone where you’re going

If you’re heading out for a trip on icy roads, let someone know your destination, the route you’re taking and how long you will be gone.

Listen to the authorities

If the local safety authorities recommend you stay off the road, take their advice.