Although driving a car is relatively common for most people in the U.S., it doesn’t make the activity any less dangerous. Car accidents happen daily, but some of them could be prevented if drivers simply learned how to deal with dangerous roadway conditions. Review these top dangerous conditions and how to handle them so you can stay safe on the road.
1. Rain Covered Roads and Puddles
Heavy rainfall may lead to puddle-covered roads in your area. Dips in the road’s surface allow water to pool and can make it hard for your tires to continue maintaining traction. Driving over puddles at high speeds may cause your vehicle to hydroplane or could cause damage to your braking system.
About 70% of all weather-related car accidents happen on wet pavement, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Avoid becoming a statistic by slowing down when roads are wet and paying close attention to puddles.
If it’s safe to do so, avoid roads where you know puddles are likely to form. Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you and plenty of time to stop at traffic signals or intersections.
2. Strong Winds
When strong gusts of wind sweep across the road, they can get under your car and cause you to lose control momentarily. A strong wind gust can push your vehicle, making braking and steering feel impossible for a brief moment.
In 2016, 43 people died from wind-related incidents and the most dangerous place to be during a windstorm is in a vehicle, according to the National Weather Service. To minimize your risk of getting injured in a car accident due to wind gusts, keep both hands tightly on the wheel at all times. Watch closely for other vehicles that may unexpectedly swerve due to wind gusts, especially large trucks or buses.
3. Black Ice
Snowy roads are dangerous and in wintery conditions, it’s also important to be aware of black ice. When slush or precipitation freezes on the road, it forms ice. These patches of ice may be covered in thin layers of snow or completely exposed.
Black ice is hard to spot, especially for drivers who are more worried about the snow. When your tire hits a black ice patch, your tires may lose traction, inhibiting your steering, and potentially making you veer off the road or hit another car or obstacle.
In the same study that’s referenced above, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 18% of all weather-related crashes were due to snowy or icy road conditions.
Slow down in winter conditions to stay safe. When pulling away from a traffic light, slowly accelerate. Never slam on your brakes in wintery conditions and give yourself plenty of time to stop behind another vehicle or for a traffic signal.
Fog reduces visibility, making it hard to see when cars are in front of you, where the road bends, or if a traffic signal has changed. While the U.S. Department of Transportation only reports that 3% of weather-related car accidents were due to fog, it still makes driving dangerous.
If it’s extremely foggy outside, it may be safer to postpone your trip. If you must drive in fog, reduce your speed and roll down your windows to ensure your windshield remains clear. Pay close to the roadway reflectors to ensure you stay in your lane.
Driving in the dark is dangerous but sometimes inevitable. At night, you’re essentially driving with impaired vision, and while you may be able to see lights, traffic signs, and road markings, you may not be able to see wildlife in the road. In 2018, 126 deaths were caused by car accidents involving deer, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
In certain areas, deer can cause extensive damage to your vehicle and your auto insurance only covers this type of car accident if you carry comprehensive coverage. To avoid the situation, take the following steps to increase your visibility in the dark:
- Dim your dashboard lights.
- Use fog and bright lights whenever possible.
- Use prescription or reading glasses if needed.
- Don’t stare at oncoming headlights.
- Try to stay on roads you know well.
6. Clear Zones
A clear zone is a border on a highway that’s designed to help a driver who may have lost control of their car. It’s also available for drivers to pull into after a car accident or if a vehicle breaks down. A clear zone may consist of a:
- Recoverable slope.
- Non-recoverable slope.
- Clear run-out area.
While clear zones are helpful, they can also be dangerous. If you see a vehicle in a clear zone, stay in your lane. Watch out for drivers outside of their car, debris from car accidents, or open car doors.
7. Dangerous Intersections
Intersections with one-way bridges, sharp turns, or narrow roadways are also dangerous, even if the weather is fine. In fact, 78.6% of intersection crashes that occurred from 2005 to 2007 happened when the weather was completely clear.
If you’re approaching a dangerous intersection, anticipate actions from other drivers before they occur. Follow all signage and don’t attempt to change lanes or make sudden moves.
8. Shoulder Drop-Offs
On most roads, there’s space available to the outside of the solid white line. However, in some cases, the road’s shoulder is a steep drop-off. Hitting the edge of the shoulder drop-off could cause tire damage or may make you lose control of your vehicle completely.
When you’re driving on a road with steep shoulder drop-offs, pay close attention to the solid white line to keep your vehicle away from the edge. Consider safely changing to a lane away from the shoulder if possible.
9. Work Zones
Work zones require slower speed to keep construction workers safe and so drivers can observe new traffic patterns. Be cautious in work zones because other drivers may not see these new patterns or lane closures, causing them to dangerously cut into your lane without warning.
About 773 people lose their lives in work zone accidents each year. Stay safe by being prepared to react to other drivers or new traffic patterns, watching out for workers, slowing your speed, and obeying all signs.
Roads that aren’t regularly maintained can develop potholes, which can be dangerous to drive on and can cause damage to your vehicle. If you hit a pothole and lose control of your vehicle, you may cause an accident and need to hire a car accident lawyer to help defend you. The average repair cost for a vehicle that acquires damage from a pothole is $306, according to AAA.
If you’re on a road you know has potholes, slow down and try to avoid them. Make sure your tire pressure is adequate and don’t slam on your brakes if you have to run over a pothole.
When you’re aware of dangerous road conditions and how to handle them, you’re better equipped for a safe drive. Driving safely is important not just for your and your passengers, but for bicyclists who share the road and other drivers you encounter.