How to Drive in Dangerous Conditions

Individuals who live in areas of the country where the temperature and weather changes throughout the seasons have to adapt their driving to meet the road conditions. Weather-related accidents are some of the most prevalent but can be largely prevented if the proper driving techniques are followed.

Some of the more dangerous driving conditions include heavy rain that causes hydroplaning, driving on ice and driving in heavy snow.

Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning occurs when water on the roadway accumulates in front of a vehicle's tires faster than the weight of the vehicle can push it out of the way. The water pressure can push the vehicle up on a thin layer of water, essentially breaking the tires' contact with the road. In a matter of seconds, a driver can lose control and end up swerving out of his or her lane.

It is important to follow a few guidelines to prevent hydroplaning. First, keep tires well maintained. Worn-out tread can contribute to hydroplaning, as can inadequately inflated tires. Certain tread patterns are more capable of diverting water away from the tires. Ask a professional about which tire tread to choose.

Next, realize that the higher the speed, the higher the propensity to hydroplane. At lower speeds, it is generally rare to hydroplane, unless the water puddles driven through are exceptionally deep. Reduce speeds when it is raining.

Also, lighter vehicles are more prone to hydroplaning. Again, if driving a compact or lightweight vehicle, slow down when water is on the road.

Should hydroplaning occur, let off the gas and do not apply the brake or turn the wheels. Once the car slows down and retains traction once more, steer and brake accordingly.

Ice

Ice is a problem that plagues drivers when the temperature drops. While some ice can be detected on the roadway, thin sheets of ice blend in with the asphalt and are known as "black ice." Black ice can be undetectable until a car begins to skid.

Many people have trouble driving on icy roads. In fact, winter conditions often lead to accidents. More than 500 fatalities were attributed to snowy, icy roads in the 2008-2009 winter season in the U.S.

It is important to make some modifications to a vehicle if driving on ice will be commonplace this season. At the least, proper tire inflation is important to maintain traction. Tires should also be checked for tread, as bald tires will do little to grip the road.

Individuals who want even more protection should consider switching to snow tires for the winter. These tires are made from a softer rubber so they can better grip the road. They may also feature a different tire tread for even more traction. Snow chains can be used to offer greater grip. However, speeds will have to be greatly reduced when chains are in place.

Reducing speed is helpful when driving in an inclement condition, including on ice. It helps a driver to better correct a situation and react. If skidding is experienced, gently steer in the direction of the skid without applying the brakes. When traction is resumed, slow down and correct the car.

Heavy Snow

Driving in snow is different from driving on ice, but they share some similarities. Snow can be melting and freezing on roads simultaneously, depending on whether salt and sand have been applied by road service personnel. Therefore skidding from hydroplaning and ice may occur.

Another hazard from snow is reduced visibility. Driving under blizzard conditions is very dangerous. Wind and snow can cause white-out situations, essentially wiping out any visibility. In these instances, a driver should pull over to a safe area and wait out the storm.

Some people experience trouble with snow accumulation on roads that have not been plowed. A lower-profile car with smaller tires may not be able to navigate through snow drifts and end up getting stuck. This can prove dangerous if the car stalls in the middle of a road where visibility is poor.

The best advice for driving in snow is to assess the situation. If it is falling heavily, it can be safer to stay home. If a person must drive, reduce speed and leave a very large buffer zone between the vehicles to allow for emergency stopping. When approaching intersections or stop signs, begin braking early to prevent skidding through. Also, be extremely cautious of other vehicles, as they may be experiencing trouble stopping as well.