Even if you drive a well-maintained vehicle with advanced safety features, bad weather can still be dangerous when travelling. Anti-lock brakes and electronic stability aids can help maintain control under adverse conditions.
Winter can present a host of challenges which can affect your vehicle such as reduced visibility, strong winds, bad road conditions and rain.
Be prepared, by following these winter driving safety tips:
- Increase your visibility. Before you start driving, make sure all windows are defrosted.
- Drive slowly and cautiously.
- Increase the distance between your car and the one in front of you.
- Be aware of road surface conditions. Deep shade or reflections from bright sun can obscure hazardous conditions.
- Approach bridges, shady areas and overpasses with caution. They may still be wet or icy when the rest of the roadway is clear and dry.
Light rain is a challenge. Rainwater mixes with residual oil, dust and leaves on the road surface causing slippery conditions. Always try and increase the distance between your car and the one in front of you.
Heavy rain can create hydroplaning which is a dangerous condition in which your car’s tyres lose contact with the road and slide on a thin layer of water. Hydroplaning can be avoided by slowing down in wet conditions and avoiding excess water buildup on the roads. If you sense that your car is hydroplaning ease your foot off the accelerator and avoid sudden steering or braking as the decreased contact with the road surface will result in no reaction to steering or braking followed by overreaction to steering and braking. The extreme reactions from sudden corrections due to hydroplaning can result in losing control of your vehicle.
Driving in fog can be hazardous and should be avoided whenever possible. Again, the first rule is to slow down and drive with your headlights on or use fog lights if your car has them. Do not use your high-beams as the fog will reflect the light back to you particularly at night. Drive at a speed that keeps your field of vision in check with your braking or collision avoidance ability.
If you see headlights or taillights in front of you, slow down to increase the distance between you and that car. Always use caution as the car ahead could be stopped or barely moving. Finally, if the fog becomes too dense, get as far off the road as possible and stop. Creeping along the road at low speeds can be very dangerous.
Wind can be challenging and dangerous for drivers of all vehicle types and sizes. High winds are especially challenging for trucks and trailers but also affect cars and not surprisingly, SUVs as well. When you experience high winds:
- Reduce your speed
- Be careful when driving close to trucks, buses and other large vehicles
- Pay attention to road signs and warnings
- Take great care making steering corrections when going from protected to open areas
A few tips when travelling:
Fluids are critical when driving in extreme heat. Your car’s cooling system should be in good working order and filled with the factory-recommended coolant mixture for extreme heat conditions. Check your owner’s manual for this information.
Your car’s air conditioning system needs to be functioning well. Have it inspected and make sure it is fully-charged with coolant in preparation for summer.
Finally, individuals or pets should ever be left in a parked car in the heat. Even on a typical summer day the interior of a parked car can climb well over 50 degrees in just minutes.