When the weather turns bad, it’s best to stay off the roads. Heading out when conditions are less than ideal increases your risk of being involved in an accident. If you can’t avoid it, here’s what you need to know to lessen your risk and stay safe.
The most common reason for being involved in an accident in bad weather is a loss of traction. When weather conditions are bad and the road is wet, muddy, snowy or icy, traction is reduced and your car has a higher chance of slipping out of control. One of the best ways to lessen your chance of losing traction is to slow down and drive smoothly. Don’t jam on the gas or brakes or jerk the steering wheel. Think of it this way: If you had to walk across a wet floor or ice skating rink, you’d stay in control by walking in a slow and controlled manner. That same principle applies to driving in slick conditions.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your car still may lose traction and start skidding or even hydroplane on wet roads. Now the car is no longer traveling under your control. If this happens to you, don’t panic. Instead, take your foot off the gas. Look where you want to go and smoothly steer the car in that direction. Give light braking pressure, if needed. Once the car is pointed in the direction you want to go, you can give a little gas as you regain control. You’ll do better in this type of situation if you’ve had some practice, so consider taking a driving course where you’re taught how to recover from skids.
Perhaps the most important step to take, besides not panicking, is to look where you want to go. Drivers have a natural tendency to look at where they don’t want to go or objects they don’t want to hit. Unfortunately, that usually means they end up steering toward where they’re looking and end up hitting the very thing they were trying to avoid. By simply looking where you want to go when you’ve lost control of the car, you can help yourself regain control.
In some cases, however, conditions may be so bad that you end up hitting something or getting stuck. If that’s the case, first make sure everyone in the car and in the immediate area is all right, and call for medical help if anyone is hurt. If you’re blocking traffic and can safely move your car, move it to a safe place. If you can’t safely move it, call the police. Once you and your car are in a safe place, call your insurance company to file a claim for any damages to your car, other property or injuries. Use your cell phone to take pictures of the accident and the area around it, and if anyone else is involved, exchange insurance information with them.
No one likes losing control of their car, especially when the weather is to blame. But, by knowing what to do during and after you’ve lost control of your car in bad weather, you can better protect yourself and stay safe.