How to Drive Safely in Any Weather (The Complete Guide)
Prepare for bad weather conditions on the road by (1) taking your car to a mechanic before a trip, (2) building an emergency kit, and (3) mapping out the route ahead of time.
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- Different types of adverse weather call for different driving responses
- Vehicles are designed with safety features that weren’t available 20 years ago
- Car insurance is critically important to make sure you’re financially protected if bad weather causes you to crash
Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for individuals under 35 years old. Adverse weather conditions increase the likelihood of being involved in an accident, so it’s imperative to know how to drive safely in any weather condition.
You may think that driving in winter is the worst season for drivers, but summer driving has its fair share of hazards as well. In fact, accident rates are 18 percent higher in the summer than winter according to the Department of Transportation.
We’ll cover tips to keep you driving safely in any kind of weather.
Knowledge and awareness can prevent a lot of harm but, unfortunately, accidents still happen, which is why it’s so important to have the right car insurance. Good insurance doesn’t have to be overpriced or out of reach.
Enter your ZIP code above to find the insurance you need at the best price.
If I parked an ’89 Mercury Grand Marquis next to a ’19 Honda Civic, I bet you could find a whole lot of differences. Externally, the vehicles are about as different as night and day. But, are you aware that the greatest and most significant differences are things you can’t see?
It’s the internal computer-enabled advancements in the way the new car is designed that protects you that help keep you save in any kind of weather.
Based on 10 years of data collection, the Federal Highway Administration found that,
“For an average year, roughly 15 percent of fatal crashes, 19 percent of injury crashes, and 22 percent of property-damage-only (PDO) crashes occur in the presence of adverse weather and/or slick pavement.”
Driving a newer car will help you stay safe in changing road conditions. Not only do features like power steering make driving easier, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) also estimates that cars made since 2000 have prevented over one million injuries!
- All-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) – features that help drivers maintain control during adverse weather. All the wheels receive power to prevent sliding. Just remember, AWD and 4WD will do nothing to lessen stopping distance.
- Assistive technology – from forward collision warning and auto-braking to lane departure warning, these features can help prevent accidents on any type of weather.
- Antilock brakes (ABS) – prevents lock-ups and allows the driver to maintain steering. Anti-lock brakes have mixed results in terms of effectiveness, but the most recent studies point to them having improved safety.
- Traction control – provides braking power to the specific wheel that loses traction.
- Stability control – provides braking to specific wheels when they lose traction which sends power to other wheels that have more traction. It can keep a vehicle from losing control due to lack of traction. As Aaron Cole for the Chicago Tribune puts it,
“Traction control only limits wheel spin; stability control can maneuver a car. Or, in bourbon/whiskey terms: All stability control is traction control, but not all traction control is stability control.”
In addition these built-in vehicle features, there are some things about your vehicle that you can control to help enable the safest driving experience. Your skills and behavior on the road can improve your safety greatly.
Defensive driving is one factor that only you as the driver can control. The very definition of defensive driving is to save lives despite what other motorists are doing.
Driving the right speed for conditions, anticipating the actions of others, expecting the unexpected, and driving without distractions are key elements to defensive driving that will contribute to a safer trip regardless of the road condition.
Read on to see our recommendations for tires.
Stopping distance is a critical player in avoiding accidents. Below, we have a chart of the reaction distance (1.5 seconds times speed in feet per second) and braking distance, giving us a total stopping distance.
Your tires will impact your stopping distance, so your choice in tires makes a difference in your ability to stop before a collision.
Probably the single most important step you can take toward safe driving in any weather is using the right tire. And the right tire for you is not the right tire for everyone.
Some universal tire tips include:
- Proper inflation – check tires monthly when they’re “cold” (haven’t been driven on for three or more hours) to make sure they are inflated to manufacturer specs.
- Rotation – This will extend your tire life because it will help all the tires to wear equally.
- Adequate tread – if you have your tires rotated frequently, your tire shop should keep you informed on the life of your tires and whether or not they need to be replaced. You can check out the tread yourself by putting a penny in between the tread, with Lincoln’s head first. If the top of his head is exposed, the tread is too worn and the tires should be replaced.
The climate where you live, namely, the winters, will dictate what kind of tire you need.
Coldest Winters with Regular Snow
The best option in cold climates is changing tires out seasonally. Snow tires with studs can be used during the winter months and switched out for summer tires during the rest of the year.
Although the studs on tires increase the vehicle’s traction on ice and snow, they do the exact opposite on good road conditions. The studs decrease traction on dry roads increasing stopping distance.
If you live where the winters are cold and snowy but you aren’t interested in having your rims and tires switched out twice a year, a new and decent option is all-weather tires. More on that next:
Cold Winters with Frequent Snow
All-weather tires are most appropriate for cold and snowy climates. They feature a three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) on the sidewall to indicate their design for winter performance.
- The rubber in an all-weather tire is designed to stay flexible even below freezing temperatures.
- The tread is designed to grip snow and ice
- The tread is designed to disperse more water and slush than all-season tires
In contrast, all-season tires are designed for different types of weather but aren’t ideal for regions with true winters where the temperatures regularly dip and stay below freezing.
Mild Winters with No or Rare Snowfall
All-season tires are appropriate in warmer climates. They are more fuel efficient and longer-lasting than all-weather tires, and the superior features of all-weather tires in colder climates aren’t realized in regions that don’t experience cold winters.
Choosing the right tires is a balance between tread life, traction, and fuel efficiency. The tires with the best traction aren’t as fuel efficient and long-lasting. Softer rubber means more grip at cold temperatures but less durability.
So if you don’t need winter traction, you’re better off going with a fuel efficient, high-mile guaranteed tire.
Headlights are a tool to enable safe driving. Anytime the weather conditions deteriorate, it’s a good idea to turn your headlights on. Not only will it help you see more clearly, but it will also help other drivers see you. Here are the state laws regarding headlight use as related to the weather.
|State||Required when windshield wipers are in use||Required with poor visibility||Required in adverse weather|
|Alabama||x||less than 500 feet||x|
|Alaska||x||less than 1000 feet||x|
|Arizona||x||x||snow and ice|
|Arkansas||yes||less than 500 feet||x|
|California||yes||less than 1000 feet||raining, foggy, snowing, cloudy|
|Colorado||x||less than 1000 feet||x|
|Connecticut||x||less than 1000 feet||x|
|Delaware||yes||less than 1000 feet||x|
|District of Columbia||yes||less than 500 feet||x|
|Georgia||x||x||raining, limited visibility|
|Hawaii||x||less than 500 feet||unfavorable atmospheric conditions, insufficient light|
|Idaho||x||less than 500 feet||x|
|Indiana||x||less than 500 feet||x|
|Iowa||x||less than 500 feet||x|
|Kansas||yes||less than 1000 feet||fog, smoke|
|Louisiana||yes||less than 500 feet||limited visibility|
|Maine||yes||less than 1000 feet||x|
|Maryland||yes||less than 1000 feet||x|
|Massachusetts||yes||less than 500 feet||x|
|Michigan||x||less than 500 feet||snow, rain, sleet, hail|
|Minnesota||x||less than 500 feet||rain, snow, hail, sleet, fog|
|Mississippi||x||less than 500 feet||x|
|Montana||x||less than 500 feet||x|
|Nebraska||x||less than 500 feet||x|
|Nevada||x||less than 1000 feet||insufficient light|
|New Hampshire||x||less than 1000 feet||fog, sleet, rain, snow|
|New Jersey||yes||less than 500 feet||weather conditions that reduce visibility, fog, smoke, mist|
|New Mexico||x||less than 500 feet||x|
|New York||yes||less than 1000 feet||x|
|North Carolina||yes||less than 400 feet||x|
|North Dakota||x||less than 1000 feet||rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog|
|Ohio||yes||less than 1000 feet||x|
|Oklahoma||x||less than 1000 feet||adverse weather|
|Oregon||x||less than 1000 feet||x|
|Pennsylvania||yes||less than 1000 feet||x|
|Rhode Island||yes||less than 500 feet||x|
|South Carolina||yes||less than 500 feet||x|
|South Dakota||x||when less than 200 feet||x|
|Tennessee||yes - when continuous||when less than 200 feet||x|
|Texas||x||less than 1000 feet||x|
|Utah||x||less than 1000 feet||foggy, stormy, dusty|
|Vermont||x||less than 500 feet||x|
|Virginia||x||less than 500 feet||fog, rain, snow, sleet|
|West Virginia||x||less than 500 feet||rain, snow, sleet, fog|
|Wisconsin||x||less than 500 feet||x|
|Wyoming||x||less than 1000 feet||x|
*x means there is no specific law for that category in that state
Often, new cars have automatic high beams that switch from high to low when the car senses the need.
Another recent upgrade to standard headlights is adaptive headlights. Instead of the headlights being fixed directly ahead, as was the standard, adaptive headlights shine in the direction the vehicle is traveling, so when you turn, the lights shine where you’re turning.
Seeing what’s ahead of the roadway where you’re headed, can increase your ability to respond in any kind of weather.
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Driving in Bad Weather
There are many types of road conditions, and how you react to one condition isn’t necessarily the way you should react to another condition. There’s a lot of information and you could spend hours researching, but we put those hours in for you and compiled the best advice for driving in different conditions.
Check out the tips for driving in rain and on wet roads. You’ll want to pay attention because three-quarters of weather-related accidents occur on wet roads, and if you drive safely, you can avoid becoming a statistic.
There is a recurring theme in traffic accidents: Speed. No matter the road condition, speeding makes it more dangerous.
Here are some facts about speeding:
- Speeding is a factor in nearly 30 percent of fatal accidents
- In 2016, speeding killed 10,111 people in the U.S.
- Teenage males are the most likely to be involved in a fatal speeding accident
There’s more to not speeding than staying within the speed limit. For some driving conditions, the speed limit may be too fast. Drivers need to evaluate the road conditions and then drive the appropriate speed.
Wet Roads and Rain
Wet pavement is by far the most common adverse weather condition and where the majority of weather-related crashes happen.
|Conditions||Annual Average (2007-2016)||10-Year Percentages|
|Wet Pavement||860,286 crashes||70% of weather-related crashes|
|Wet Pavement||324,394 persons injured||78% of weather-related injuries|
|Wet Pavement||4,050 persons killed||76% of weather-related fatalities|
|Rain||556,151 crashes||46% of weather-related crashes|
|Rain||212,647 persons injured||51% of weather-related injuries|
|Rain||2,473 persons killed||46% of weather-related fatalities|
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) collects data for fatal crashes. Here are the stats by state for 2017 traffic fatalities involving rain.
|State||Number of Traffic Fatalities Involving Rain in 2017||State||Number of Traffic Fatalities Involving Rain in 2017|
|District of Columbia||2||North Carolina||94|
Wet roads and rain after a heavy downpour are the leading cause of weather-related vehicle accidents. As the surface of the road becomes wet, the friction supply between the road and the car tire is lowered.
Let’s take West Virginia as a case study on wet roads. According to the research article, “Comparison of Operating Speeds on Dry and Wet Pavements of Two-Lane Rural Highways,”
Forty percent of the accidents on the West Virginia Interstate system occurred on wet pavement…The roads in West Virginia were not wet more than fifteen percent of the time.
In other words, in West Virginia, crashes are two to three times more likely to occur on wet pavement than during an equal length of time on dry.
Rain is the most common adverse weather event in the U.S. so everyone can benefit from following safe driving tips for wet roads:
Not only can the water on the road reduce traction, but also oil and grime on the road can make the road even more slippery.
Because of the reduced traction, stopping distance is increased. Leave room between you and the car ahead of you give yourself plenty of room to stop when approaching intersections.
Drive in the Wheel Tracks of Vehicles in Front
AAA Exchange recommends driving in the wheel tracks of the vehicles ahead of you to avoid hydroplaning. Tire tread’s main purpose is to disperse water, allowing your vehicle to remain in contact with the ground.
If your tires cannot disperse the water quickly enough, your car with hydroplane, which is one of the most dangerous situations you can get into. When you car hydroplane, it loses traction with the road and your car essentially becomes a boat with no steering.
Driving in the wheel tracks of another vehicle lessens the amount of water your car’s tires have to disperse because the vehicle in front of you has already moved that water.
If you do hydroplane:
- Take your foot off the gas
- Steer in the direction you want to go
- Gently apply pressure to the brake pedal – don’t slam on the brakes
Do Not Use Cruise Control
When you have your foot on the accelerator and feel a loss of traction, you automatically lift your foot off the accelerator to apply the brake. When you let off the gas, the vehicle slows and weight is transferred to the front tires.
When you begin to brake, that increased weight transfer can increase braking effectiveness.
Use your Headlights
In rain, like in most other adverse weather conditions, headlights should be turned on. See the headlight table above to see the laws regarding headlight use in your state.
Keep in mind that even if you have automatic headlights, they may not come on during the rain, so make sure the headlights are turned on manually if they haven’t come on automatically.
Consumer Reports recommends that if the water appears to be six inches deep or deeper, turn around. Driving through standing water may cause the following damage:
- Six inches of standing water can cause the engine to stall in low-clearance vehicles
- Headlights and taillights can take on water
- Air filters may need replacement
- Water that gets inside the car can cause mold and rust
According to the National Weather Service, a foot of rushing water can carry away a small car, and two feet of rushing water can carry away almost any vehicle.
It is just not worth attempting to drive through if there’s any question. Besides the possibility of being swept away, there are other hidden dangers like debris and downed wires.
If there is standing water, try to avoid it, but if you don’t want to and it is less than six inches deep, follow these tips:
- proceed slowly an steadily to avoid causing a large bow wave
- allow oncoming vehicles to pass before attempting to drive through
- test your brakes after driving through the water
But really, you should avoid driving through standing or rushing water.
Sun glare is can hurt your eyes and lessen your ability to see the road and what’s around you. In some cases, it can even cause temporary blindness. When you’re driving into the sun, follow these tips:
- Use your visor
- Wear sunglasses, preferably polarized
- Keep the windshield clean
- Slow down
Winter Roads (Snow, Ice, Sleet, and Slush)
If you live in a region that experiences rare snowfall, you probably have the option to hunker down at home during the day or two a year that the temperature dips below freezing and the flakes fall from the sky.
If, however, you live where winter storms and freezing temperatures are a normal part of winter (and often fall and spring) life, you’ll need to get out and drive when conditions are less than ideal.
Here how the stats compare for winter road conditions:
|Conditions||Annual Average (2007-2016)||10-Year Percentages|
|Snow/Sleet||219,942 crashes||18% of weather-related crashes|
|Snow/Sleet||54,839 persons injured||14% of weather-related injuries|
|Snow/Sleet||688 persons killed||13% of weather-related fatalities|
|Icy Pavement||156,164 crashes||13% of weather-related crashes|
|Icy Pavement||41,860 persons injured||11% of weather-related injuries|
|Icy Pavement||521 persons killed||10% of weather-related fatalities|
|Snow/Slushy Pavement||186,076 crashes||16% of weather-related crashes|
|Snow/Slushy Pavement||42,036 persons injured||11% of weather-related injuries|
|Snow/Slushy Pavement||496 persons killed||10% of weather-related fatalities|
Below is NHTSA’s fatalities stats for 2017 by state. You already know if you live in a snowy state, but these numbers will show you the fatalities in your state due to wintery roads.
|State||Number of Traffic Fatalities Involving Snow in 2017||State||Number of Traffic Fatalities Involving Snow in 2017|
|District of Columbia||0||North Carolina||9|
Snow is one of the most dangerous driving conditions. Not only is the road surface compromised, but visibility can be horrible. When slick roads and poor visibility combine, the results can be disastrous.
Driving the correct speed for the conditions is imperative. When visibility and traction are reduced, you need to drive more slowly to ensure safety.
Preparing for Cold Weather
Preparation is every bit as important as safe driving skills out on the road. To prepare for cold weather properly, take the following precautions:
- Don’t let your fuel approach empty. Being stuck in a traffic jam is enough hardship without having to worry about running out of gas.
- Make sure your battery is in good condition, battery terminals are clean, and it is not approaching its expiration. Cold weather can take a lot of life out of a battery
- Make sure your wiper fluid is rated for sub-freezing temperatures. Using your washer fluid to clear the windshield only to have it glaze the windshield in a coat of ice can be extremely hazardous.
Make sure your wiper blades are in good condition, as well. Windshield with streaks left by the wiper blades or with areas that are missed by the wipers can be hazardous if your view is obstructed.
Driving on Icy Roads
If you must drive on slick roads, remember the following advice:
- When the roads are slick, try to avoid stopping while going uphill.
- Avoid stopping at all, if possible. Starting and stopping both take longer on slick roads, so if you see a red light ahead, slow down so you can coast until it turns green.
- Slow down and leave plenty of distance between you and other vehicles. In good conditions, a safe following distance is three seconds. In poor road conditions, a safe following distance should be increased to eight to 10 seconds.
- Do not use cruise control. You need to be ready to react instantly to a loss of traction.
If you find yourself skidding, knowing how to react can help you regain control and help you avoid overcorrection which often leads to sliding off the road.
The head knowledge of how to react in a skid is the first step, but taking a course in which you can physically learn to react to a skid is an important step in the prevention of slide-offs and crashes.
Liberty Mutual Master This recommends that you do not turn in the direction of the skid. That advice is old school and doesn’t apply to today’s vehicles and technology. Instead,
- Keep your foot off the gas
- Keep both hands on the wheel
- Look where you want to go
- Steer where you want to go
Driving in a Blizzard Safely
Follow these steps when driving in a winter storm or blizzard:
- Slow down
- Leave plenty of distance between yourself and the car in front of you
- Turn on your headlights
- Ease on the brake and accelerator, don’t try to stop or start quickly or you risk sliding
- Don’t stop going uphill if you can avoid it
You really should avoid becoming stranded and stay home if the conditions are bad enough that may become a possibility. But if worse comes to worst and you find yourself stranded, NBCPhiladelphia.com recommends,
Stay in your vehicle, avoid over-exertion, let fresh air in, run the engine every 10 minutes, but make sure your exhaust pipe is free of snow. Turn on the dome light at night when the engine is running. Change your position often, move your hands and legs, rub your hands together or put them under your armpits or between your legs and remove your shoes occasionally and rub your feet.
Driving at dark when snow is falling can feel like driving through a kaleidoscope. Try to avoid getting into dangerous situations by staying home if at all possible.
Winter seems like the most dangerous season for driving, and while it has its fair share of hazardous conditions, there are more traffic fatalities in the summer than in the winter! There are many factors involved so it’s still safe to say that driving on an icy road is more dangerous than driving on a dry road.
Autumn brings shorter days, cooler weather, and often a more routine lifestyle than during the carefree days of summer. Unfortunately, fall driving is second only to summer driving for fatal crashes.
Watch for Changing Road Conditions
As the temperatures drop, watch for wet roads becoming icy roads. Take your car off cruise control if the temperature approaches the freezing point. Leave plenty of time to brake, and leave plenty of distance between yourself and other vehicles.
The first snowfall of the year poses more statistical risk than other snowy days. The first snow day each season has more fatal crashes than subsequent snow days. Remember to exercise extra caution and be aware of the dangers and differences while driving on snow-covered roadways.
- U.S. News and World Reports states, “Many experts suggest driving super-smoothly in the winter, as if […] you don’t have brakes at all, since you don’t know whether you’ll have any grip for braking when you need it.”
- Avoid overconfidence if you have all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive will not help you brake any more quickly
- Try to avoid stopping on an incline. If a vehicle can remain in motion, even if it’s slow, it’s more likely to make it to the top
- Use wisdom to decide when it’s necessary to stay home to ensure safety
Expect Animals on the Move
In 2017, one in 167 drivers filed a claim for hitting a deer, and those odds doubled in October, November, and December because that’s when the deer mating season occurs. Deer are on the move, looking for and chasing mates, and they’re less cautious than they are the rest of the year.
Our insurance expert Melanie Musson spoke with her State Farm Agent Ty Elliot who reported that in Montana (the state with the second highest odds of hitting a deer), many drivers choose a lower deductible for comprehensive coverage (the coverage that pays for collisions with animals) during those riskiest months.
Follow these tips from the Institute for Insurance Information to avoid a collision with a deer:
- Be especially attentive at dusk and dawn when deer are most active
- Use extra caution when driving where deer crossing signs are placed as these indicate a large deer population and a likelihood for roadway deer
- If one deer is visible, watch for more as they are usually in groups
- Use high beams at night when safe to do so
- When a deer is on the shoulder or in the road, slow down and honk the horn to scare it away
- If a deer is in the driving lane, brake firmly, but do not leave the lane. That will help avoid collisions with other vehicles
Clear Frosty Windows
When a driver is running late and gets to their vehicle, ready to head off to work, only to discover the windshield is frosted over, it can be tempting to take shortcuts and get going. But it is unsafe and usually illegal to drive with an obstructed view.
Even if a driver is running late, he or she must take the time necessary to properly clear their windshield. Check the weather, and if frost appears likely, consider parking in the garage, if possible, or at least leaving yourself extra time in the morning to let the defrost or scraper do a complete job.
Beware of Fallen Leaves
Leaves that accumulate on the roadway can be slippery, especially if they’re wet. Motorcyclists, in particular, need to exercise caution when riding on leaf-covered roadways.
Fallen leaves can also cover up potholes and other obstructions. Slow down and leave room for extra braking distance when traveling over a carpet of leaves.
An accident can take the thrill right out of autumn. Follow these cautions and be ready for the driving conditions fall can bring to enjoy this season to the fullest.
The next topic, fog, is common during the fall, but it also can happen during any other season.
|Conditions||Annual Average (2007-2016)||10-Year Percentages|
|Fog||25,451 crashes||3% of weather-related crashes|
|Fog||8,902 persons injured||3% of weather-related injuries|
|Fog||464 persons killed||9% of weather-related fatalities|
Fog-related crashes make up three percent of all weather-related crashes, yet nine percent of weather-related fatalities. This statistic indicates that crashes due to foggy weather are more likely to be deadly than any of the other weather-related crashes.
Autumn often brings crisp, clear, cool nights which is the recipe for morning fog. Here are some tips from the National Weather Service for safe driving in fog:
- Slow down
- Use your low-beams. Do not use high-beams as they will increase glare.
- Use fog lights if your car is equipped with them.
- Slow down and allow extra time to reach your destination.
- Make your vehicle visible to others both ahead of you and behind you by using your low-beam headlights since this means your taillights will also be on. Use fog lights if you have them.
- Use the fog line (white painted line on the side of the roadway) to help you stay in your lane.
- If the visibility is near zero, pull into a safe place to park. If you must pull to the side of the road, be sure to turn off your lights so other drivers don’t assume you’re in the driving lane and crash into you.
High winds are difficult to compensate for. Because wind comes in gusts, you must constantly correct your steering. Keep both hands on the steering wheel and slow down, recommends Weather.gov. And keep a distance from high profile vehicles which have a greater tendency to be blown over.
Extreme conditions include dust storms, Santa Ana winds, and wildfires. When visibility is greatly reduced by these conditions, try to pull off the roadway. If it’s not possible to safely do so, follow the center painted line of the roadway to keep on the road and proceed slowly.
Summer Road Conditions
You’d think summer roads would be the safest, but there are weather conditions that frequently occur in the summer, and you need to be prepared for how to deal with the hazards.
Thunderstorms and flash floods can cause massive damage to your vehicle, and there’s often little forewarning before they hit. One thing you don’t want to do is rely on your car as shelter. It’s a common myth that vehicles keep you safe from lightning because of the rubber in their tires.
Instead, seek shelter indoors. If your car happens to get damaged by a weather event or sustains flood damage, a comprehensive policy will help cover the costs of repairs.
Frozen rain and ice melt away and leave potholes in their wake. Increased summer traffic worsens the potholes, and they can pose a major threat to motorists, especially those who are traveling at high speeds. Checking your tire pressure and treads routinely can help protect you against blowouts.
- Keep enough distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you that you can see potholes approaching
- Maneuver around the pothole if possible
- Check your tire pressure and treads routinely to help protect you against blowouts if you hit a pothole
- Make sure your car’s suspension is in good condition
If you have hit a pothole hard, examine your wheel and tire to make sure they’re not damaged. Also, pay attention to changes in alignment. If how your car handles is affected by a pothole, you may need to get in for a wheel alignment.
Scorching temperatures bring the risk of overheating. There are multiple steps you can take to reduce the risk of your car overheating, such as using the fresh air setting on your AC for 10 minutes to cycle out the hot, stale air it’s been circulating.
You should also park in the shade whenever you can, stay on top of your coolant level and keep your eye on your temperature gauge.
General Summer Driving Tips
The video above provides some great tips you can follow on your next car trip this summer.
Here are a few key takeaways to remember:
- Don’t overpack or obscure your car’s windows.
- Ensure all roof cargo is properly secured and reinforced to handle high-speed travel.
- Map out your destination ahead of time and plug in the credentials into your phone (mounted n your dash) or vehicle’s GPS before you leave.
- Take your car to the shop and have it checked out before you go on any trips. Make any necessary repairs.
- Keep a summer car emergency kit. Here’s how to build a good one.
- If you’re going on a long trip, make sure you stop to rest. Don’t drive sleep-deprived and stay hydrated.
What to Expect After a Crash
The goal of this guide is for you to learn how to avoid an accident or driving off the road. Unfortunately, even when you think you’re doing everything right, you could still get into a situation where you are in a crash. You could also become stranded on wintery roads or other bad conditions.
You should prepare for the worst with a fully stocked first aid kit.
Ready.gov recommends you load your vehicle with these critical items.
- Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio – and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit – more on that next
- Extra batteries
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask – to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
The American Red Cross recommends that you stock your vehicle first aid kit with the following items:
- 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
- 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes), also found within our Family First Aid Kit
- 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
- 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
- 5 antiseptic wipe packets
- 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
- 1 emergency blanket
- 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
- 1 instant cold compress, also found within our First Aid Kit
- 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
- 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
- 1 3 in. gauze roll (roller) bandage
- 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
- 5 3 in. x 3 in. sterile gauze pads
- 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
- Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
- 2 triangular bandages
- Emergency First Aid guide
If you depend on medication for your health, you should keep a couple of days worth of that medication in your kit.
Make adjustments to the recommended list depending on where you live and the size of your family. For example, if you live in a cold climate and you have four children, make sure you have enough blankets to keep everyone warm.
Obviously, you do not want to be involved in a collision due to bad weather, the physical harm you could do to your body is enough of a reason to drive as carefully as possible, but there are even more repercussions than injuries.
Damage to your vehicle is an obvious one. Your car’s liability insurance will pay for any damage you do to another party up to its limits. Make sure you have adequate coverage to actually pay for your damage. If you’re carrying your state’s minimum requirements, you really do not have enough coverage.
Make sure if you are an accident, you consider your surroundings to ensure you are safe from further risk and use your emergency flashers.
Costs of a Crash
Consider the cost of damages if you sideswipe three cars as you skid of the road in the ice. Property damage alone could easily reach $60,000 which is far higher than the average state requires.
What about your own vehicle? Are you prepared to pay for the damages out of pocket? If you’re not ready for that, are you prepared with collision and comprehensive coverages?
If you spin out, slide off the road, and roll your car, it’s your collision coverage that will kick in to pay. Collision coverage will also pay for your vehicle’s damage when you collide with another vehicle or property.
Comprehensive coverage will cover damage from weather damage that happens while your car is parked. It will also pay for fire, theft, and vandalism damage.
Another couple of options for insurance that are beneficial for every to consider are:
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage which will protect you financially if the at-fault party doesn’t have insurance
- An umbrella policy which provides a blanket of protection over car insurance and home owner’s insurance (this usually needs to be with the same company as your auto policy).
Chances are pretty high that after you file a claim for an accident, your rates are going to rise for a while, often for around three years.
The table below shows how much, on average, annual rates increase with the major carriers in each state from having a clean record to having one accident on your record. Find your state to see how much a crash could cost you.
|State||Allstate||American Family||Farmers||Geico||Liberty Mutual||Nationwide||Progressive||State Farm||Travelers||USAA|
When to Purchase Coverage
If a storm is coming, can you purchase comprehensive and collision coverage right before the storm and cancel right after?
This seems like it could be a beneficial step. You’d only be paying for that coverage when you’re most likely to need it, and the rest of the time, when the odds of damage are lower, you’ll pay less.
It’s best not to wait for an impending storm to purchase coverage. If your car is worth protecting when a major storm is coming, chances are it’s worth protecting all the time.
You may not be able to purchase comprehensive coverage under a major storm warning. It’s a high risk for an insurance company, and often they will refuse to provide coverage.
Car insurance shouldn’t be reactive but should be preventative. The right coverage can spare you the stress and financial struggle of covering costly repairs in the event of an accident or unexpected damages.
You should check your coverage at least once a year and ensure you’re getting the most coverage for your money.
Enter your ZIP code below to start comparing free auto insurance quotes today.
We’ll answer some of the most common questions next.
How can I get better fuel economy in the winter?
- Park your car in the garage
- Combine trips so you’re starting a cold vehicle less often
- Don’t leave your car to warm up
- Keep tire pressure optimal
How can I drive safely in a Polar Vortex?
USAToday.com recommends packing the following in your vehicle:
- Tow and tire chains
- Jumper cables
- Tool kit
- Wooden matches in a waterproof container
- At least two flares
- High-energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits, and hard candy
If planning to drive in extreme, follow the tips for cold weather driving listed above. And don’t forget to bring your phone in case you need to call for help.
What should I know about driving a diesel in cold weather?
Diesel fuel will gel up sooner than gasoline, and getting the fuel thawed so you can drive can be a nightmare. An engine heater block is a game changer for a diesel. If your weather is going to be below freezing, plug in the heater block and your diesel vehicle should start and run like a charm.
Should I warm my car up when it’s cold?
It’s not fuel efficient and may cause damage to newer motors. Also, it’s illegal in some places to leave vehicles idling because unattended idling leaves the vehicle wide open to theft.
Are nano-coatings for new cars worth the cost?
Nano-coating claims to protect your vehicle from the long-term effects of bad weather. They definitely provide protection, but you may be able to get an equal quality result by using a DYI process for a fraction of the cost of having it professionally done.
Is premium fuel required for cold weather?
Follow your owner’s manual. Your vehicle should have the octane level fuel that the manual calls for regardless of the temperature.
Are cars with bigger wheels better for handling?
They have an edge in handling, but the ride tends to be stiffer.