Different road conditions call for different driving tactics. What may be an appropriate speed on dry pavement during the day can be a dangerous speed at night in a snow storm. Whether you are a new driver or an experienced driver looking to brush up on your skills, here are some tips for driving safely in hazardous road conditions.
- One of the most important steps to driving safely in hazardous conditions is to recognize that the road conditions are not ideal. You should become more cautious not only when the road is covered with ice and snow, but anytime that visibility is reduced, traffic is heavy or the road surface is wet. Hazardous conditions can also exist due to road work or foreign objects on the roadway. By simply being aware of the road and other traffic conditions, you will be better able to drive safely and to avoid an accident.
Whenever you encounter hazardous road conditions, you should drive at a lower speed than normal. Remember that the maximum speed limit is set with ideal driving conditions in mind, that speed is not safe in all conditions. Driving more slowly allows you more time to react to problems that you might encounter and reduces the risks of your vehicle losing traction and sliding on the road.
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- In addition to driving more slowly when experiencing hazardous road conditions, you should also increase the distance at which you follow other traffic. By allowing more space between you and the vehicle in front of you, you will have more time to react if that car suddenly slows or stops. This is important anytime there is reduced traction due to ice or other moisture on the road. One of the times that roads are most dangerous is just as it begins to rain. This is due to the rain water laying on top of the oil on the road’s surface which creates a very slick surface. As the rain continues to fall, the combination of moving water and traffic will work to wash the oil away and traction will improve.
- Avoiding aggressive driving is always a good idea, but this is especially true in hazardous conditions when you will have less time to react and an increased chance of losing traction. You should avoid rapidly accelerating, decelerating (braking) or turning as these actions all reduce traction. The combination of one of these three actions and slick road surfaces can result in a loss of traction and control of the vehicle. Avoiding rapid deceleration also gives vehicles behind you time to react when you are slowing down or coming to a stop.
- When driving at night in heavy precipitation or thick fog, low beam headlights are often more effective than high beams. This is due to the light from the high beams deflecting off of the moisture in the air. Of course, if your vehicle is equipped with fog lights, these should be used to help illuminate the roadway. Headlights should be used anytime that it is raining, snowing or foggy, even in the daylight. The headlights will help other drivers on the road to see your vehicle and help you to avoid an accident.
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