If it’s been a while since those high school driver’s ed classes, or if you didn’t pay attention to them because you were grossed out by the “buckets of fake blood pouring down the streets” in the films, here are a few tips to make driving safer when road conditions are less than ideal.
When driving in the rain, slow down
Hydroplaning is no fun, and can happen even at relatively low highway speeds! Whenever possible, use the middle lane of multi-lane roads, and always have your lights on. Increase your normal distance between vehicles, because wet roads are slick roads and your braking distance will need to be increased. Make sure you allow yourself extra time to reach your destination because you won’t be able to safely travel as fast as you normally do.
When it’s foggy, never drive with your high beams on, and always use your vehicle’s fog lights (if it has them). Fog often comes with slick roads, so the same precautions as rain–increased distance, slower speeds — apply as well. And, as under rainy conditions, use your wipers to keep your vision clear.
Under ice and snow conditions
It’s generally best to avoid driving unless you have no other choice. If you must drive during these times, make sure you avoid sudden braking maneuvers. Your normal interval between vehicles both ahead of and behind you should be at least three times what it usually is and avoid unplowed and unsalted roads whenever possible.
Fortunately, modern vehicles come equipped with a number of systems that can make hazardous driving less so. Anti-lock braking systems constantly monitor for locking wheels and adjust the brake pressure to prevent or minimize skidding. All-wheel-drive vehicles send power to the entire drive train, not just the front or rear axle, which makes them considerably safer on suboptimal roads. Vehicle stability controls help prevent wheel slip and loss of traction and work with the other systems to help you maintain control of your vehicle.
Remember, the best way to drive safely under bad road conditions is to stay alert — especially for the other people on the road who haven’t read this!