Navigating the Forgotten Hazards of Summer Driving

Summertime brings sun, fun and heavier road traffic. It also brings more fast-acting rain showers and thunderstorms than any other season. Even though back-to-school time is upon us, the roadways are still clogged with drivers, so when nature strikes in the form of deluging rains or heavy winds, a Sunday drive can turn deadly.

Most people know to take precautions to protect themselves from the immediate dangers of a heavy rain by slowing down and proceeding with caution, particularly when they approach standing water. Doing so will hopefully prevent hydroplaning (the loss of traction resulting from trapped water between the tire and road surface) and/or the car being swept away by underwater currents. Even that may not be enough to prevent some car wrecks, though, especially when road conditions suddenly turn sour. Dirt roads can completely wash out, asphalt can buckle in high heat or a roadway can collapse if there is rapidly running water flowing underneath it.

Wind and rain greatly decrease visibility, so it is vital that if you encounter heavy rain you:

  • Slow down even going five mph less can greatly increase your visibility, give you more stopping time and make it easier for you to maneuver around obstacles
  • Turn on your headlights not only is it the law to turn on your headlights while using your wipers, it makes it easier for you to see and be seen by other vehicles
  • Use your wipers, and use them at the appropriate speed this may seem elementary, but some storms strike so suddenly and with such ferocity that drivers forget this basic step when trying to stay in control of their vehicles

Stay Aware of Your Surroundings

Heavy rains, hail, straight-line winds and tornado activity can wreak havoc not only on the roadways, but also the trees and power poles alongside them, causing another serious, oft-forgotten summertime driving hazard downed trees and power lines. Should you encounter one of these, it is important to act quickly and carefully.

If at all possible, you need to try and avoid striking both trees and lines if traffic volume and road conditions allow, take evasive maneuvers like tapping your brakes to slow the vehicle and angling your car out of the way of the obstacle. If your car happens to stop upon a downed power line, it is vitally important that you do not attempt to get out of the car. Do not even touch the door handles the electricity from the line will be conducted through the metal of your car if you break that circuit, you will suffer a powerful (possibly fatal) electric shock.

In spite of all the possible hazards around you, you can stay safe during summer road trips by remembering the rules of the road, being proactive with vehicle maintenance (like making sure your wiper blades are up to the challenge and ensuring you have adequate levels of vehicle coolant) and driving with caution when weather or road conditions suddenly change.