Winter weather driving safety tips

January 7, 2009 5:20:17 PM PST
The CHP is highlighting the following safety tips and warning motorist early to be prepared and be forewarned for the upcoming storms!

Ready Your Car

If you are serious about safety and driving in wet slippery conditions, the CHP reminds you of several things you can do to prepare your car:

  • Make sure your wiper blades are like-new and they still have a sharp wiping edge. Poor visibility is extremely dangerous.

  • Regularly clean your wiper blades by running a damp cloth along their edges from time to time to remove the build-up of oils and debris that the wipers have removed from the windshield.

  • Clean the outside surface of your ALL your windows. Then clean all of the inside glass too! If your windshield is heavily pitted, it might be time for a replacement here as well. If you can't see around you, you may become the next crash statistic.

  • Make sure that your headlights and taillights are in operable condition, that their lenses are clean and that they are all on while driving in the rain.

  • Make sure your tires have sufficient tread and are inflated to the manufacturer's specifications. Under inflated tires can easily lead to tire failure and a greater chance of hydroplaning once the rains begin to fall steadily.
Driving Tips
  • Turn on your Lights! It's the Law! Recently passed legislation now requires that your vehicle lights be activated in the rain, when visibility is reduced or when your wipers are on.

  • REDUCE YOUR SPEED! The maximum and posted speed limit may not apply to the wet road conditions and during the rain. Be attentive to the situation around you, including what other drivers are doing and how they are reacting to conditions.

  • DON'T TAIL GATE! Leave extra distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you. This will allow you the extra time necessary to respond to any situation. You will also need more room to stop in case of emergency. The three (3) Second Rule may give you room to stop in time and four seconds will give you even more.

  • Slow down early, before you encounter a problem, and be aware that you have less traction available from your tires - for stopping, steering and accelerating. Anti-lock brakes can't change the laws of physics it will take you much longer to slow or stop on wet, oil slicked roadways.

  • Even a new tire will hydroplane on wet surfaces with standing water. Your Speed is what will determine your ability to control the car. In wet conditions, most cars will hydroplane at 60 mph in under an inch of water.

  • If the steering begins to feel light or squirrelly, gently let off the accelerator and allow the car to slow to a more manageable speed. Don't abruptly hit the brakes; it could put you out of control on the wet surface, in a ditch or worse.

  • If you find yourself in a skid, do not brake heavily, do not jerk the steering wheel, and do not panic. Instead, turn your steering wheel into the direction of the skid and gently brake.

  • Be aware of the spray coming from passing trucks and oncoming cars. It may blind you temporarily, so anticipate this by increasing the speed of your wipers and by looking at what's happening to cars ahead of you.

  • Turn down the radio, turn off your cell phone and maybe put off discussions of the day with your passengers. A distracted driver on slick wet roads is another hazard to all of us. These conditions demand much more of your attention than driving during a normal commute.

  • During the rain season, leaves clog up storm drains and create standing water on local streets and busy freeways. Remember, in California these conditions will last for months.

  • Never drive your car through deep water on a flooded road. You simply cannot tell how deep the water is. It doesn't take much water to disable your vehicle or even float it off of the road surface. If you have any doubt about water depth, stop and go back the way you came. If you must drive through deep puddles, gently press the brake pedal one or two times afterwards to help dry the brakes before you need to use them to stop the car.
Be Safe
The biggest factor in safe wet-weather driving is you and your judgment. When visibility drops and the roads become challenging you must adjust accordingly. If you must drive when it is raining, allow more time for your journey. The combination of stress, speed and wet weather is a bad way to start any commute! Sure, it may take you a bit longer to reach your destination, but in the end, the few minutes spent to be safe will be worth it. If you become involved a minor collision and can move your vehicle from traffic lanes, get it out of the road help your fellow commuters!