Mom CEOs: Busting Bad Weather Driving Myths
When it comes to driving in bad weather, people may inadvertently perpetuate myths and give advice that’s just plain wrong. A mom acting as the Chief Emergency Officer of her family tries to separate fact from fiction, know which sources to trust, and busts myths like it’s her full-time job (along with her nine other full-time jobs). Read below to find out which commonly held beliefs about driving in bad weather may be busted and which are actually true.
Potential Myth #1: Using High Beams in the Fog
When the fog rolls in and makes driving difficult, many people might think about flipping on their brights. Huge mistake! While some people mistakenly call them fog lights, your brights are definitely not for the fog. Ron Gibbons, director of the Center for Infrastructure Based Safety Systems at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, told NBC News that turning these on not only makes it very difficult to see because of the light reflecting off the fog, it’s also a distraction to other drivers. This myth is busted.
What to do: When you’re driving through fog, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says to reduce your speed and turn on your headlights, but don’t turn on the brights.
Potential Myth #2: Bridges Freeze Before Highways
Cold weather can bring a lot of surprises, like school snow days that ruin all your plans, snowed-in cars that you have to get out with kitty litter (it really works!), and, of course, icy roads. Just because there’s no ice on the road doesn’t mean there isn’t ice on the bridge. It turns out that because bridges aren’t on the ground (obviously) they don’t retain the Earth’s heat, meaning they freeze faster than roads on the ground, and often suddenly. This myth is confirmed.
What to do: Drive carefully in cold weather, especially after snow or rain. You may not be able to see ice on the road (also called “black ice”), so take extra precaution when crossing bridges.
Potential Myth #3: Cold Weather Drains Your Car Battery
It sort of makes sense why people say this, because everything seems to break in the cold. While freezing temperatures aren’t great, as it turns out, heat, not cold, shortens battery life, according to the Car Care Council.
In the summertime, when the temperature hits 100 degrees, the air conditioner isn’t working, the last thing you want to worry about is your car battery. But consider this: The hot, ambient temperatures of summer can be significantly hotter under your vehicle’s hood. All that excess heat quickly evaporates battery fluid, according to the CCC, meaning your family won’t be headed to the public pool today. This myth is busted (in a way). Freezing temperatures can affect your battery’s performance, but the CCC says it can be less damaging than extreme heat.
What to do: Regardless of the season, in addition to testing the voltage output, you should be checking your battery every few months for corrosive build up, frayed or corroded cables, and weak connections. This is a good time to clean the terminals with a wire brush. It doesn’t matter if it’s burning hot or freezing cold—getting stuck outside in any weather is a total drag.
Potential Myth #4: You Should Stay in the Car if a Tornado is Spotted
It’s hard to imagine a scarier situation than being in the car with your kids when the weatherman says there’s a tornado in the area. It’s like, all-hands-on-deck, we’re having a full-on panic attack over here. Some people suggest you should stay in the car during a tornado, because it will protect you from flying debris. This one is serious: What should you do?
According to weather.com, the myth that you should stay in the car when you spot a tornado nearby is totally busted, but it absolutely depends on a few important questions. First of all, is there sturdy shelter in the area? If so, leaving the car may be the best decision you could make, says weather.com, as tornadoes can quickly flip it, even if it’s parked under an overpass. Get in that safe, sturdy shelter, and stay there until the tornado passes.
If there’s no safe shelter, and it’s possible to safely drive away from the tornado, then do so, says weather.com. This doesn’t mean gunning the engine and speeding away like it’s some kind of movie. This means going the speed limit, watching for debris, and travelling in the opposite direction of the tornado’s path.
A long-standing safety rule is that, when you know a tornado is coming, get out of the car, climb down into a ditch, and wait it out. This will give you protection from flying debris, and get you away from your car, which can easily flip over. It might sound scary to leave the car during a tornado, but according to weather.com, it’s your best bet if there are no sturdy structures around, and you can’t drive away.
Finally, if you don’t see a ditch to climb into, you can’t drive away from the tornado, and there are no secure structures in the area, only then should you pull over, stop your car (leave it running so the air bags still work), and crouch down below the windows. Weather.com reports that the frame of the car and the airbags will offer you some protection, but it does not guarantee safety.
Making quick decisions is difficult when you don’t have the facts to back them up. Take our quiz to see if you’re an all-weather driver, and learn what to do when that weather-related emergency strikes.