According to a 10-year study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 22 percent of all annual American car accidents are weather-related. That’s over 1.2 million accidents caused by bad weather out of 5.7 million total accidents. Weather-related crashes lead to almost 450,000 injuries and 6,000 deaths per year. Fortunately, simple on-road precautions and regular vehicle maintenance can help prevent accidents and serious injuries caused by inclement weather.
What Weather Conditions Can Cause Accidents?
Snow and ice are obvious weather phenomena that can make driving more difficult and dangerous. But there are numerous other weather events to consider: fog, high winds, rain, and even extreme heat among them.
Like snow and ice, fog and rain can lower visibility and make roads slippery. Heavy rains can also cause flooding, which can damage your vehicle even if you’re not involved in an accident. High winds can fight against your vehicle as it moves forward or can impact it from side to side. Extreme heat can increase the likelihood of a tire blowout and serve as a big drain on your vehicle’s battery.
To avoid accidents in any of these weather conditions, follow the precautions below.
- Be Attentive
While a driver should avoid distractions even while driving in good weather, this is especially true during inclement weather. Driving during inclement weather is more difficult than driving under normal conditions. Therefore, distracted driving during bad weather may lead to missing important details like debris in the road or a stop sign that’s been turned somewhat by high winds. Also, be careful of non-working traffic lights and treat them as four-way stop signs.
- Ensure Visibility
When dealing with snow, make sure to brush or scrape all snow and ice off all your windows before you start driving. Clearing only a small spot on the driver’s side of the windshield is insufficient, as this sort of “peephole driving” limits visibility and can, therefore, lead to accidents. Not only is driving in this manner potentially hazardous, it can also result in tickets in some states.
- Drive Slower
Slippery conditions caused by rain, snow, or ice can cause tires to lose their grip on the road, which can affect your accelerating, braking, and turning. Driving at speeds below 45 miles per hour during inclement weather gives you extra time to react to a possible collision due to slippage. Even if the collision occurs, driving slower will result in less damage to your vehicle and person. Remember, if you start skidding, turn your wheel in the direction of the slide and avoid hitting the brakes.
- Do Not Drive around Barricades
You might know the perfect shortcut on a smaller road to get yourself home sooner, but you should avoid using it if it is barricaded. Officials block off roads during bad weather that can be flooded or feature other dangerous conditions that can cause accidents and other damage to your vehicle and person.
- Maintain Your Vehicle
Proper vehicle maintenance can help you avoid accidents and problems in all kinds of driving conditions. However, if you drive in areas that are prone to snow, rain, or heat, it is especially important to take care of your vehicle so that you are prepared for bad weather.
First, top off your antifreeze, which prevents your vehicle from overheating from outside temperatures or internal processes. Next, install new windshield wipers to make sure you can easily brush off rain and snow while driving. Don’t forget to refill washer fluid as necessary, too.
The next items require a little more vigilance, but they’ll keep you safe and your vehicle running smoothly. Maintain your tires. A common trick is to stick a penny into the tread head. If you can see President Lincoln’s head, you should invest in new tires with better tread. Also, check your tire pressure monthly by using a pressure gauge you can purchase cheaply at any gas station. Either your vehicle’s owner manual or the driver’s side door frame should have the proper specifications. Finally, change your oil every 3,000 miles or once every three months, whichever comes sooner, and have your car battery tested by a mechanic if it is over three years old.
Relax and Drive Safely
Inclement weather can be dangerous and frightening. But with proper vehicle maintenance and common sense precautions while driving through bad weather, you can help keep yourself, your passengers, and other drivers safe. Be alert but stay calm.