Tips for Driving in Hazardous Weather

January 9th, 2024 by

Here in the Lowcountry, inclement weather can lead to hazardous travel conditions at any time of year. Being aware of when roads are hazardous and adjusting your driving is crucial to your safety and the safety of your car.

Researchers estimate that almost 1,235,000 car accidents occur each year because of adverse weather, according to a report from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). Additionally, these conditions result in approximately 418,000 injuries and 5,000 fatalities per year, according to the DOT.

Here in Charleston, the first move any driver should make is to avoid hazardous areas, particularly flooded zones. The obvious reason is to prevent stalling out. But even if you’re driving through an area that isn’t flooded deep enough to stall your car, its still strongly advised to avoid the area. This is directly due to the fact that the flooded areas in Charleston are likely salt water. Flooding in Charleston is usually caused by surging tides, not necessarily rainfall. This means that water from the marshes and rivers around the area are what’s flooding the streets. If your car gets soaked by this water, it becomes highly succeptible to corrosion and your car’s undercarraige could get destroyed.

Rainy roads are a direct path to hydroplaning, skidding, swerving, or spinning out. If your car ends up swerving or skidding on a road, the first thing to do is make an effort to remain calm. Do not immediately slam on the breaks, as this will only worsen the situation. Slowly take your foot off the gas and gently guide your car across the road with the steering wheel. Don’t fight against the direction that your car is heading.

Always be sure to leave ample room between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. Wet roads make it much harder to come to a safe stop in a short distance. During rainy weather, the stopping distance can be doubled. To safely work around this, you should generally reduce your speed by one-third on wet surfaces. And on snowy roads, you should reduce your speed by one-half.

Extra caution should be taken when approaching curves or making turns as well. When roads are wet or slippery, it is easy to lose control of your vehicle. Slowing down before a curve and coasting around it, accelerating just slightly as you come around the turn will help you maintain control and prevent slipping or sliding.

The dangers of unexpected hazardous weather only highlight the importance of keeping your car well-tuned. You should have your tires and brakes checked more frequently during months when you expect a high amount of hazardous driving conditions. For Charleston, this mostly means hurricane season from around September through January. And even with Charleston’s commonly warm and humid weather, this should also include all wintery months in the chance of snowfall or icy roads.

Tires with worn treads have a difficult time gripping ground surfaces, and this challenge is amplified during inclement weather. Be sure to have your tires rotated regularly to avoid dealing with worn tread. This isn’t a fix that can be made last minute without full tire replacement, so it’s important to stay ahead of this particular maintenance task.

On top of all of these safe driving practices, here are some things to be aware of while driving in hazardous conditions:

  • Shady sections of the road stay wet and icy longer than sunny sections.
  • Bridges freeze before road surfaces.
  • When ice begins to melt, road surfaces become wet and slippery.
  • Black ice makes a road appear wet, but in actuality, the road is frozen over.
  • Icy vehicle mirrors and antennas are good indicators of impending icy roads.
  • When it first begins to rain, water mixes with oil from vehicles, making roads extremely dangerous.